Archive for October, 2009

27
Oct
09

pumpkin polenta soup/squash polenta soup.

Winter squashes terrify me, but in an exciting way. I like to circle them slowly, taking it all in, and then I start the no holds barred grab-assing, if you will. Last weekend involved me, the farmer’s market, like 19 varieties of squash, and that scenario I just recounted. I chose three different kinds and stepped up to the cashier forcing a familiar, almost bored expression. The farmer would have believed I knew my shit if I hadn’t tried to buy the decorative autumn corn to eat:just for show

That destroyed my credibility pretty fast. I took my squashes home with very little clue how I’d enjoy them. I started my gourd discovery in a small way, by using the leftover pumpkin from the prior week. I decided to make a soup I may or may not be stealing from Rachel Ray. I’m pretty sure I added my own touch where the spices are concerned, though, so I feel comfortable taking credit.

I started by cutting the pumpkin into chunks and throwing them in the food processor with two peeled and chopped carrots. I then added a third of a tube of cooked polenta, which is the ultimate poor man’s food. I added some spices in the way of nutmeg, cinnamon and chili powder, and I added about 3/4 cup of water to the processor. I pulsed them all together until they got nice and pasty.

Meanwhile, I cut a shallot, some spinach, a little cumin, and a can of black beans, and I heated them all in a skillet with some extra virgin olive oil. The goal of that was wilty spinach and soft shallots, and I think I accomplished it.

I heated about 4 cups of vegetable stock with about a a tablespoon of butter in a giant pot, and then I dropped the whole pasty pumpkin-polenta-carrot mix inside. Once I stirred for 5-10 minutes, everything was incorporated. I served the soup with the bean and spinach mix on top, and it was so filling and delicious. See below for Rachel’s and my love child:

pumpkin polenta soup with black beans and spinach on top

The soup lasted three nights of so, and for round two I tried it with this fancy looking squash:fancy winter squash

 

 

 

 

 

 

I prepared it pretty similarly, with two chopped carrots, a third tube of polenta, and plenty of seasonings. I’m not sure if this squash is, like, a non-ripened pumpkin in drag, but it didn’t have much flavor on its own. I was forced to pick up the slack by adding brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in larger amounts. I also pulsed it all with water, and then I added the whole mix to the heated veggie stock and butter.

I took a page from the Giada school by adding a little triple cream brie to the top ($1.99, thanks cheese shop), so the end result was much more dessert-y and sweet than the previous soup. If I had foresight of any kind, I would have swapped the pumpkin with the draggy squash in the two different recipes. It was pretty great anyways, though:

squash polenta soup topped with triple cream brie

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19
Oct
09

black bean and pumpkin burger and cumin fries.

I’m getting into a phase in which I’m, like, herb-obsessed. For a while I strayed away from all things stemmy, mostly because I was born sans-green thumb and they make me feel morally inferior. I know “morally” is a stretch, because I can’t recall the last time I saw basil give back to the community, and I don’t think that’s even expected of the greater herb population. In any event, it took me years to discover salt and pepper, and so naturally basil, thyme and rosemary took longer to pique my interest.

Though I can get away with the casual purchase of fresh basil or cilantro, I scare too easily to step out of that comfort zone. In the name of penny pinching and unspoiled herbs, I’ve decided to start small with the dried herbs at my disposal.

I bought these adorable mini pumpkins at TJ’s to break the seal:

baby pumpkins

baby pumpkins

Cue the six month obsession. For my first pumpkin-fueled recipe of the season, I decided to make black bean and pumpkin burgers with oven baked fries. Though I looked up a few recipes for inspiration, the end result was original(ish).

It started easy, with a can of black beans which I rinsed and drained and tossed in a food processor. DONE. Then came the pumpkin cutting, which, though I was armed with a super sharp knife (I have battle scars), was pretty damn unpleasant. Pumpkins, like, don’t want you inside. Luckily I’m stubborn, so I stuck with it until I separated all the innards (minus the seedy parts) from both mini-pumpkins. After that 20 minute ordeal, I added the pumpkins to the processor as well. I diced a red pepper for the mix, and then added about a teaspoon of chili powder, maybe 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, salt, pepper, one egg and a couple cups of bread crumbs. I blended until they were sculpt-worthy, and got to pan frying.

I heated a few tbsp of vegetable oil in a pan over medium-high heat and formed my mix into patties. Each patty took about 4-5 minutes on each side until they got black-ish, so on the side I started on my fries.

I had a few fingerlings left from my reduction, so I cut them into fry-like spears and tossed them in olive oil. I added some salt, pepper, and some cumin, which rarely gets any action from me. I haven’t been able to figure out why, though, because it’s no stranger to Indian and Mexican cuisines, and I enjoy both very much. I tossed them all in the toaster oven at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. If I had foresight, I would have made them during my pumpkin gutting. Foresight is not my forte.

I toasted a kaiser roll and served one patty on it, not realizing how the monstrous roll would dwarf my hard work and make it look insignificant. I added some amazing deli mustard to the top along with a handful of arugula, and served it all alongside my fries. It was SO good, and for once I have proof. My roommate had one and backed up my claim! And it was pretty, too. See below:

black bean and veggie burger, cumin spiced fries

black bean and veggie burger, cumin spiced fries

12
Oct
09

roasted potatoes and veggies.

Exciting things are on tap. First off, autumn has officially hit NYC and it’s all about Gator football and winter squashes, both of which I can’t get enough of these days. Also, pumpkins are back! Welcome home, my lovelies. I missed them so. Finally, I’m getting back in the workout mindset after months of going through the motions. Maybe I haven’t mentioned it, but I’ve been all drag ass-y lately. I skipped the gym twice last week. WHO AM I?!?

In honor of change, I decided to cook with potatoes. It’s so rare for me to buy and/or cook with potatoes, although I’m not trying to spit in my Eastern European heritage’s face. To be fair, I tried to keep them on hand in college, but their whole “cool, dry” storage instructions pretty much guaranteed I’d have rotten Russets in my cabinet for weeks before I found the source of the smell. Also, they’re heavy, and I have to lug my groceries several blocks. 

I bought a bunch of Fingerling potatoes at the farmer’s market, though, and I got the kind of excited that I usually reserve for $0.99 cheese. Not only are they lightweight, but they’re way easy to clean. Who needs a dirt coated Russet? Very few people. Fingerlings are the way to go for those who loathe long meal preps and shoulder strain.

In keeping with change, I decided to buy carrots to add in the mix. I’m so wild and adventurous. I also bought my regulation grape tomatoes, and then I decided to – wait for it – roast it all. I came thisclose to getting out of that comfort zone. 

I’ve always wanted to reduce something, so I started with some balsamic vinegar and honey. I added a tablespoon of honey to 1/4 cup vinegar and brought both to a boil on the stove top. It got all bubbly and delicious:

mama's first reduction

mama's first reduction

 

I brought the mix down and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I chopped the Fingerlings and cut the carrots into matchsticks. I also diced a shallot and left the tomatoes whole. I tossed all in some olive oil and roasted it in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes. 

Since it was my first reduction, I started preparing it too early in the process. The timing was a little off, and the potatoes were still softening while the reduction was, like, halfway out the door and ready to go. I let it sit on low heat for a little and tried to trick it into thinking it wasn’t quite done, but the reduction saw through me. As a result, it turned out a little too thick and molasses-like. I drizzled it atop my veggies, but within two minutes it was solid like candy. I kind of loved it anyways. See below:

 

roasted potatoes and veggies in a balsamic honey reduction

roasted potatoes and veggies in a balsamic honey reduction

05
Oct
09

stuffed tomatoes and breakfast tacos.

So I’ve been a little MIA as of late, and it’s not because I’ve been eating bland food and staying dry. Actually, I’ve been spicing it up daily and sweating profusely, but my computer decided to have un-resolvable issues and has prevented me from documenting my life away. I’ll try and condense anything notable from the past few weeks, but I’m kind of a talker so it’s a feat. Bear with me, por favor.

To begin with, I’ve fallen for the farmer’s market in my hood. Honestly, I think about it during the week and find any excuse to bring it up in daily conversation. It all started with these beautiful Beefsteak tomatoes I found a couple of weeks back:

beefsteaks

beefsteaks

I mean, that’s hot. I love TJ’s and all, but they never have tomatoes of this caliber. I’ve been wanting to make stuffed tomatoes since they were popular, so I started gathering some ingredients. Actually, I don’t think they’ve peaked quite yet. Their time will come.  

I started with basmati rice, which smells amaaazing while it cooks. I’m thinking of bottling and selling it as perfume, or maybe a home fragrance because that seems more socially acceptable for some reason. While that simmered, I pan fried a little diced eggplant in olive oil, cumin and curry powder.

The rice was done in about 30 minutes, so I mixed in the eggplant. I cut off the tops of my beefsteaks, and then gutted them completely. I filled both tomatoes with the rice and eggplant mix, and then topped them with breadcrumbs and some Manchego cheese.  

The original plan was to throw them both in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until they got all soft and…wanton? I’ve been looking for any excuse to use that word since Jude Law said it in “Hamlet” this past weekend, but you’d be surprised in how few conversations it makes sense. Therefore, the tomatoes were wanton, or they would have been if my oven was working. It wasn’t, so I turned to plan B: toaster oven. My beefsteaks proved too large for the mini-oven, so I last resort grilled them on the panini press. Weird but delicious. Behold the final result:

stuffed tomatoes with basmati rice & curried eggplant, topped with bread crumbs and Manchego cheese

stuffed tomatoes with basmati rice & curried eggplant, topped with bread crumbs and Manchego cheese

As far as the sweaty stuff goes, I got a free personal training session last week at my gym, which was kind of awesome/painful. My main lesson learned was that I loathe squat thrusts, although the name alone tells my quads they’re not interested. I told the trainer I pretty much do 20 minutes of cardio each time I gym it, and he suggested I up it to 30-45 at least twice a week. I get bored when doing one activity for such a long period of time, so I’m forced to distract myself. I did the elliptical for 45 minutes today while watching the Food Network. Typical.

Post-trainer time, I returned to my farmer’s market to reward myself. I have a lady hard-on for tomatoes these days (ha, gross), so I picked up a few non-traditional varieties including one orange and one green. I don’t know names. I then went through the hot pepper section and bought at least one of every variety, save the habaneros because I once had a habanero-to-the-eyes incident that I still haven’t fully recovered from. Anyways, my tomato and pepper situation looked like this:

local tomatoes and peppers

local tomatoes and peppers

I decided to make black bean and tomato tacos to begin with. I started with a can of black beans, which I drained and rinsed, and then tossed in a pan to warm. I toasted habanero-lime tortillas into taco shapes, and threw a little hot jack cheese up in there. I cut half an orange and half a green tomato, and half a serrano chile pepper. I mixed them all together as a makeshift salsa with some lime juice, salt and pepper. 

I threw the beans in with the toasted tacos, and then topped each with the salsa. They were delicious and fed me for three meals last week, but I much preferred the looks of the breakfast taco I created on Saturday with the remnants.

The preparation was completely the same, although I didn’t use any cheese and scrambled an egg with a little butter. To recap, it was a habanero lime tortilla filled with scrambled egg, black beans, and green and orange tomato salsa. SO amazing. See below:

 

breakfast taco with scrambled egg, black beans, and mixed tomato salsa with serrano chile pepper

breakfast taco with scrambled egg, black beans, and mixed tomato salsa with serrano chile pepper




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