From the category archives:

Vegetables

This week, it’s a menu for winter doldrums. I’m nursing a light cold with some chicken soup–and adding chipotle chiles and garlic for extra health-giving kick. On the side: a baked sweet potato, packed with vitamin C.

 

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Shopping list

    2 chicken thighs, bone-in
    2 cups chicken stock
    Pasta (or pearl couscous or rice)
    Flour or corn tortillas
    Cashews
    Sweet potatoes
    2 carrots
    Celery (optional)
    Grape tomatoes
    Small bunch cilantro
    1 lime
    1 onion
    5 cloves garlic
    Butter
    Olive oil

Chicken Noodle Soup with Chipotle Pesto

chixsoup 027This is basically a very generic chicken noodle soup, but with a handful of details that make it super-flavorful: with the fresh chicken and the toasted pasta (you could also use pearl couscous, orzo or even rice), it’s a lot richer than a soup made from just canned broth. All the trimmings (cilantro, the chipotle pesto on top, a squeeze of lime) make it semi-Mexican, but you can adapt the basic soup any way you like–take out the tomatoes, add different herbs and spices, mix up a different sort of pesto to dab on top…

serves 2
2 chicken thighs, bone-in
Drizzle olive oil
1 onion
Salt
5 cloves garlic
2 cups chicken stock
2 carrots
2 ribs celery (optional)
Large handful grape tomatoes
1/2 avocado
Large handful noodles of your choice (elbows, etc.)
2 chipotle chiles in adobo
Small handful cashews
1 lime
Small bunch cilantro
Flour or corn tortillas

Chop one chicken thigh up roughly into 4 or 5 pieces, cutting through the bone if possible. Set a heavy soup pot on medium heat; add a small drizzle of oil, just to coat the bottom. Add both chicken thighs (the cut-up one and the whole one, skin-side down) and let brown.

Chop the onion into rough slices and add to pot with chicken, alongside. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the onions and the chicken. Peel and chop the garlic coarsely.

When the chicken is somewhat browned and no longer shows any pink, remove the whole chicken thigh and set it aside; leave the remaining pieces of chicken in the pot. Add the garlic to the onions and stir and fry briefly. Put the lid on the pot, turn the heat to low and let the chicken, onions and garlic steam for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

chixsoup 032Peel your carrots and slice them into half-inch chunks. (If using celery, cut into quarter-inch rings.) Slice the grape tomatoes in half (using this genius method). Cut the avocado into cubes (as at left) and set in your serving bowls.

Check on your chicken in the pot–when the onions are soft, and the chicken has given off a little liquid, add the chicken stock, scraping up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan as you stir the mixture together. Turn the heat up to medium-low and toss in the carrots. Also remove the skin from the whole chicken thigh and return the meat to the pot.

Set a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add a tiny drizzle of oil. Add the dry pasta, stirring well to coat each piece with oil. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is toasted and brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Immediately remove the pasta to a small bowl, to keep it from browning further in the pan.

chixsoup 033Make the chipotle pesto: Chop the chiles fine (scrape seeds out if you want less heat), along with the garlic and cashews. Add a generous squeeze of lime and extra adobo from the chipotle can to make a loose paste. Also rinse the cilantro and pick the leaves off the stems.

After the carrots have been in the soup for about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes and the pasta. Let simmer until the pasta is al dente and the carrots are soft. Remove the thigh bone and the whole chicken thigh from the soup and let cool briefly; remove the meat and return it to the soup.

Just before serving, heat up your tortillas: fry them briefly in a dry skillet (or the one you did the pasta in, with the extra oil wiped out), until they have a few brown spots and puff up (flour ones do this more).

To serve the soup, ladle it over the avocado pieces. Top with a small dollop of the chipotle pesto, and a small handful of cilantro. Add another spritz of lime and enjoy with hot tortillas on the side. (They’re also good with honey for dessert…)

Whole Baked Sweet Potatoes

chixsoup 024This is a cinch. The only trick is remembering to put the sweet potatoes in the oven very first thing when you start cooking, so they have time to finish while you do the rest of the meal. Set your oven to 350 degrees. Rinse your sweet potato(es), scraping off any obvious chunks of dirt, but don’t sweat it too much. Poke each sweet potato 5 or 6 times with a fork. Stick ’em in the oven, and let bake for 35-40 minutes, until they’re nice and soft. Slice open and eat like a regular baked potato, with a dab of butter, and maybe some salt and pepper.

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This week, we cook a little risotto–it’s not as complicated or as fussy as you think. And it’s a very adaptable dish. On the side, we roast up some wee brussels sprouts and douse them in garlic and anchovies–what’s not to love?

 

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Shopping list

    1 slice bacon
    2 or 3 anchovy filets
    1 small butternut, kabocha or acorn squash
    1 pint brussels sprouts
    Sage (fresh or dried)
    2 or 3 cloves garlic
    1 small onion
    1/2 cup short-grain rice
    Olive oil
    Parmesan cheese
    1/4 cup almonds
    1 tablespoon butter

Butternut-Squash Risotto

squash 024Learn to make risotto, and you’ve got an immensely versatile dish under your belt–you can throw just about anything in. This combination capitalizes on fall flavors–squash and sage, with a boost of bacon (though that’s optional). The nuts on top (almonds here, but you could use hazelnuts or even pecans) add a little extra protein, as well as essential crunch–it’s the variety of textures that take this from gooey side dish to main-meal material.

Serves 2 generously
1 small winter squash or pumpkin (see note)
Olive oil
Salt
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 slice thick-cut bacon
1 small onion
2 large pinches dried sage (or 10-12 leaves fresh, chopped fine)
1/2 cup short-grain rice (see note)
Parmesan
1 tablespoon butter
Large handful (1/4 cup or so) almonds

Preheat oven to 400. Slice squash into large wedges, scrape out seeds then cut off peel with a sharp knife. Cut squash into small pieces–1/2-inch square or so, though irregular sizes are fine, and even a bonus here, as the smallest ones will get quite soft and blend in with the risotto, and others will stay firmer and whole. Toss the pieces with a drizzle or two of olive oil, just to coat, and lay the pieces out on a baking sheet or (if not too crowded) a heavy skillet. Sprinkle with a bit of salt. Place in oven and roast for about 30 minutes, until the squash is soft all the way through.

squash 026

Pour broth into a small saucepan and set on a back burner on low heat to warm. Cut bacon into 1/4-inch pieces and set to fry over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan–this is the pan you’ll be making your risotto in.

Cut onion into thin slices. When the bacon is half-crispy, add the onions to the pan, along with a pinch of salt, and stir and fry. Add the sage and continue to cook, until the sage is fragrant and the onions are translucent and soft–this can take 5 minutes or so. When the onions are ready, add the rice. Stir and fry until the rice is coated with oil and somewhat translucent.

Add a couple of ladlesful of warm stock and stir thoroughly to combine. If you have nothing else to do in the kitchen, continue to stir. (If you do have other tasks, you can leave the risotto unattended until you hear the liquid cooking away.) Continue to stir and add stock, ladleful by ladleful, as the rice absorbs the liquid and a velvety sauce forms around the rice. Depending on your rice, you may or may not use all of the stock–I usually wind up just adding everything I’ve heated up, and it usually turns out fine.

When rice is al dente–it still has a bit of firmness to it–and the mixture is fairly loose (it will thicken as it sits), turn off the heat. Grate in a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, and stir in the butter. Put the lid on the pan and let the risotto sit for about 5 minutes.

During this time, roughly chop your almonds and toast them in a dry skillet over high heat, just until lightly browned. Remove them from the hot skillet as soon as they’re browned to your liking.

Stir the roasted squash into the thickened risotto, squishing up some of the smaller pieces. (How much squash you add depends on your taste–you might have some squash left over.) Place in serving bowls and sprinkle over the toasted almonds, along with a bit more grated Parmesan.

Notes:
Squash: You can use butternut, kabocha or acorn squash–anything that’s firm, orange and a bit sweet. In the podcast, I use a wedge of calabaza–a kind of pumpkin that’s used in Latin America and the Caribbean. Butternut squash is by far the most common, but it’s hard to find small enough squash so that you won’t be overwhelmed with it when cooking for just a couple of people–but leftover roast squash is not a bad thing to have around. (And please avoid that precut squash! Who knows how many days/weeks it’s been sitting around! Really, it takes very little time to peel and prep a squash.)

Rice: Classic risotto recipes call for arborio rice, an Italian grain that’s hard to find and expensive when you do. I have found that Japanese sushi rice works quite well too–it happens to be much easier for me to buy, and it’s significantly cheaper. But any short-grain rice will work reasonably well.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Anchovies and Garlic

squash 016As I say in the podcast, when in doubt with vegetables, roast them. Brussels sprouts roast up particularly well, getting a nice crunchy outside and sweetening a bit in the process. Even if you think you don’t like brussels sprouts, try them once this way–I think you’ll change your mind. Dousing them in anchovies and garlic (skip the anchovies if you’re veg, obviously–it will still be tasty) makes them incredibly savory, and a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the squash in the risotto.

Serves 2
1 pint brussels sprouts
Olive oil
Salt
2 or 3 cloves garlic
2 or 3 anchovy filets

Preheat oven to 400. Trim bottom ends of brussels sprouts and slice in half lengthwise. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on a baking sheet, then lay out the sprouts, cut side down, rubbing each one in oil. Drizzle a bit of oil over the tops of the sprouts as well, and sprinkle with salt. Roast until the cut sides are nicely browned, about 30 minutes.

Set a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour in a glug of olive oil. While it’s warming, chop your garlic cloves fine or squeeze them through a press. When the oil is hot, add the anchovy filets, mashing them with the side of your spoon, so they melt into small pieces. Add the garlic and stir and fry until fragrant.

Put the roasted sprouts in a serving bowl, then pour the hot anchovy-garlic mixture over them and toss lightly.

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This week, I make perhaps my most standard standby pasta, a mix of onions, tomatoes and bacon–great year-round, and totally doable with just pantry items. On the side, I boil a bit of kale and dress it up with chili flakes and vinegar.

 

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Shopping list

    Bacon
    Pasta: spaghetti, bucatini, linguine
    Tomatoes: best-quality canned or fresh (grape tomatoes for best flavor)
    Onions
    Kale
    Red-wine vinegar
    Olive oil
    Chili pepper flakes
    Pecorino romano or good-quality parmesan

Sorta-Pasta all’Amatriciana

amatriciana 018This is a great dish to cook any time of year, as well as an excellent emergency pantry-only kind of dish–as long as you start considering bacon a pantry ingredient (it does keep in your fridge for a couple of weeks, or in your freezer forever). But as I say in the podcast, this is hardly an “authentic” recipe for many reasons, so maybe it’s more honest just to call it pasta with onions, tomatoes and bacon. Some recipes also call for chili pepper and/or garlic, but I don’t find this is necessary–and then you have some room to make your side dish spicy and/or garlicky.

I use canned Muir Glen or San Marzano tomatoes, or good ripe grape tomatoes, and thick-cut bacon yields chunks with a little bit more texture (Niman Ranch, for instance–I don’t like it just to eat straight, but it has a good flavor for cooking). As for pasta, bucatini–like thick spaghetti, but hollow–is traditional, but hard to find, and also hard to eat because you can’t slurp it up. Standard spaghetti works fine, as does linguine.

Serves 2
Salt
4 thick slices bacon
2 medium onions
Glug olive oil
5 or 6 canned tomatoes, or the better part of a pint of grape tomatoes
1/2 lb. bucatini, spaghetti or linguine
1/2-inch wedge or so pecorino romano or good-quality parmesan cheese

Put on a pot of water to boil, and salt it generously.

amatriciana 007Slice raw bacon into 1/2- or 1/4-inch pieces, then cook in a heavy skillet on low heat, stirring occasionally. Some pieces will be crispy, and some will be chewier–this is fine. Remove from the skillet and drain on a paper towel. Pour off all but about 1 tbsp of the bacon grease.

Slice onions in 1/4-inch slices. Cook on medium heat in the pan with the bacon grease and an extra glug or so of olive oil. (If you’re in a hurry, as I am in the podcast, you can get the onions going in a separate pan, with just olive oil, then move them over to the bacon-greased pan when the bacon is out.) Sprinkle on some salt–this helps the onions soften up. Moderate the heat so the onions get soft, but don’t get crispy brown spots. (See Episode #2 for tips–no need to caramelize the onions so extremely for this, though.)

When the onions are thoroughly soft, add the tomatoes and crush them up with the back of your spoon. Let this mixture simmer 10-15 minutes–the tomato juices should thicken up but not cook away entirely. During this time, you can get your pasta boiling, according to the package directions (although check it early, because sometimes those directions are wrong–in the podcast, my so-called 11-minute pasta was done in about 7 minutes). Also grate your cheese–you want a couple of big handfuls.

Add the bacon back to the tomato-onion mixture and stir well. When the pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving a mugful of pasta water. Toss the pasta in with the tomato sauce, adding a bit of pasta water if necessary to make a more liquid sauce. Toss in a handful of the cheese and stir to combine. Serve the pasta in bowls, topped with the remaining cheese.

Quickest Kale

amatriciana 012Kale is one of those workhorses of winter, sturdy and good for you. The easiest way to prepare it is simply to boil it briefly, then sprinkle it with vinegar and chili. As I say in the podcast, you could also wilt it in a pan–see Episode #15’s Wilted Arugula with Pine Nuts, but cook it for several minutes longer, until the stems are tender. Curly kale tends to have smaller stems and cook a little faster–and looks nicer on the plate–but regular kale is fine too. Beet greens will also work nicely.

Serves 2
Salt
Medium bunch kale, curly or otherwise
Red-wine vinegar
Crushed red chili (Aleppo pepper is nice)
Salt

Set a large pot of salted water to boil (as in the podcast, you can use the same water you’re boiling for pasta). Rinse kale well and trim off any parts of the stem that look ragged or split.

Drop the kale in the boiling water, in a steamer basket, if you have one. Poke the kale a bit to make sure it’s all submerged. Boil until the stems are tender–this could be as little as 3 minutes, or quite a bit longer. In any case, you want to try to get the kale out of the water before it loses its bright-green color and turns a duller olive green.

Drain the kale well and spread the leaves out on a serving plate. Sprinkle with vinegar, salt and red chili flakes. You can serve it hot, but it’s also satisfying closer to room temperature.

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Episode 21: Indian-Spiced Fish Tagine and Sweet-Hot Carrots

September 20, 2009

This week, I make a fish tagine–essentially, fish cooked in a stewpot–with spices from a favorite Indian recipe. On the side: carrots with cinnamon, honey and red pepper…and some potatoes that take a damn long time to cook. Click to play this episode in a new window; right-click to download Subscribe via iTunes Subscribe via […]

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