Category: Quick and Easy

Sweet Potato Tian

March 4, 2011

The other night, after dinner and while Randy and I were watching TV, a fast food ad came on.  Suddenly my husband’s eyes were glued to a hamburger.  This was not just a hamburger, it was one that had several patties, bacon – you know, meat.  And my husband, his belly full of plant-based goodness said, “Oh my god, that looks so good!”  Which gave me pause.  I mean, I know he eats meat, that he likes meat and I’m totally fine with that.  But if that triple stacked burger looked good to him, how would, say, a sweet potato tian look?

As it turns out, really good.  Randy loved this meal and so did I.  In fact, because it makes a generous portion, he has eaten it three times – willingly! – in the past two days.  And I think I finally got beyond Randy’s sweet potato prejudice.  You know, that “sweet potato = mushy dish with marshmallows on top” thing.  I use sweet potatoes often in my cooking and he always likes them but I do notice that his eyes glaze over a bit when I mention them.  Not anymore.  He declared this a “once a week” meal which is just about the highest praise I can expect from him.  He suggested that I tell you all that this dish is “addictive”.  Wow.  But it is pretty darn good.

You may look at the ingredients and think – really?  But the magic of the vegetable combination, the heat of the oven, and a fresh breadcrumb topping can do wonders.  I added to the recipe by using some herbs and some Parmesan in the bread crumbs and I think those are necessary additions.  I always have some kind of bread in my freezer and this time I was surprised to find my only option was one with kalamata olives.  I thought it would make strange breadcrumbs but truthfully, I think it added to the overall goodness.  And a hint of purple color.

Sweet Potatoes Previously on Dana Treat: Spicy Sweet Potatoes with Lime, Southwestern Sweet Potato Gratin
One Year Ago: Brownie Chunk Cookies and Honey Nut Squares
Two Years Ago: Smoky Cashews and Pappa al Pomodoro

Sweet Potato, White Bean, and Pepper Tian
Adapted from Vegetarian Classics
Serves 4-6

I’m not a huge green pepper fan, but it is very mellow after baking.  Substitute with another red or a yellow one if you prefer.  I tend to shy away from large amounts of garlic, but the heat is great here. I filed this under quick and easy.  It does spend a fair amount of time in the oven but it is so quick to put together, I think it is a good weeknight meal.  You could certainly make it ahead of time and just serve it room temperature.

3 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced ¼-inch thick
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium red onion, cut into 2-inch chunks and sections separated
6 ounces cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
3 tbsp. olive oil

3 slices country bread
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Combine all the vegetables along with the garlic, beans, herbs, a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and toss well.  (The vegetables can be prepared to this point up to 4 hours in advance.)  Pack the mixture into a 2½ or 3 quart shallow baking dish and flatten the top surface.  Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.  Uncover, give everything a good stir and bake for another 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the fresh breadcrumbs.  Place the bread in a food processor and pulse until you have crumbs.  Turn them out into a bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Stir to coat the bread with the oil and then add the cheese.  Combine well.

Remove the tian from the oven.  Spread the crumbs all over the top.  Return the tian to the oven and bake 15 minutes more, or until the topping is a rich golden color.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Spicy Cauliflower

February 10, 2011

I really really try not to be, but sometimes I am a picker.  You know, dinner is over, you are stuffed.  And yet the remnants of the meal are beckoning to you.  And so.  You pick – find the bites with your fingers that are the most tempting.

Recently, I made a pasta that starred many of the things you see here.  And it was good.  But when all was said and done, I picked at the cauliflower.  Ignored the pasta all together, nudged it aside, so I could get to the tangy, slightly sweet, savory, and spicy cauliflower.  Clearly this vegetable needed star billing.

So, I made it.  I sautéed garlic – more garlic than this somewhat garlic ambivalent person usually does.  I added a full teaspoon – maybe more – of red pepper flakes.  I added some chopped up caper berries because a dear friend bought me some for my birthday and a small handful of kalamata olives.  I wanted raisins and I remembered that same friend gave me some pickled raisins (swoon!) and tossed a couple tablespoons of those.  Acid was needed so in went half a can of crushed tomatoes.  And, of course, the cauliflower.

My mom used to make steamed cauliflower when I was a kid.  I ate it because she made me.  This is not that cauliflower.  Randy sometimes imagines he doesn’t like cauliflower.  He loved this.  You could certainly add pasta and have a knockout dish.  But you don’t need it.

These raisins.  I have to give some away.  Maybe you are thinking – raisins?  As a giveaway?  Well, if you are a fan of things pickled, you will love having these in your pantry.  They are a local treat, made by the good folks at the Boat Street Café.  I will send two winners each a jar.  Just tell me what you would do with them!  Winner will be picked this Sunday.

UPDATE: Contest closed!

One Year Ago:  Apple Torte
Two Years Ago:  Gratinéed Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes

Spicy Sweet and Savory Cauliflower
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4 as a side dish

If you are not a big fan of spice, you can dial the red pepper way back here.  I wanted to add toasted pine nuts to the finished dish, but I was out.  I think they would be terrific here.

3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tsp. red pepper flakes
3 tbsp. caper berries or capers, rinsed, drained, and roughly chopped
12 kalamata olives, halved
1 medium cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
½ cup dry white wine
3 tbsp. golden raisins
About ¾ cup canned crushed tomatoes
Generous ¼ cup of basil, julienned

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.  Pour in the olive oil, swirl it around, then add the garlic.  Sauté, stirring constantly, and once it is golden, add the red pepper flakes, capers, and olives.  Be careful that the garlic does not burn.

Add the cauliflower, give everything a good stir, then pour in the wine.  Allow to cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half.  Stir in the raisins and the tomatoes.  Turn the heat down to low and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is fork tender – about 10 minutes.  Stir in basil and serve warm.

Herbed and Spiced Goat Cheese Balls

January 9, 2011

I’m really late in saying this but Happy New Year!!  I’m curious – what did you all do?  We were lucky enough to have a night out this year.

I spent my 20’s feeling like New Year’s Eve was Very Important.  I had to be doing just the right thing, otherwise it was disappointing.  The problem is, I never figured out what just the right thing was so I was always disappointed.  I spent Y2K in an uncomfortable skirt, heels that were too high, at a very expensive party where they ran out of wine by 9:30, wondering why I didn’t lower my expectations a little.

Once I did, New Year’s became just another fun night out.  Or in.  Some of the best that I have spent have been with close friends in someone’s home.  Since having kids, going out has become a little trickier.  Our babysitters all have social lives and often they include big plans for the big night.  Occasionally, Randy’s parents come to town right after Christmas and we have built in babysitters.  Such was the case this year.

My friend Julie rallied a small group of us and we had a 9:30 reservation at a local favorite Cantinetta.  I like to eat late but 9:30 is pretty extreme for Americans.  We decided to have everyone come over to our house for a nibble and a glass of champagne.  Knowing a big dinner was on the horizon, I wanted to make something relatively small and light but substantial enough to hold us until dinner was served.  I also had a lot of cooking in my future and didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time on a nibble.

Because we entertain a lot and because I have catered several parties, I have a lot of appetizers in my back pocket.  But nothing seemed right.  In those cases, I turn to Martha Stewart and as usual, she had the perfect thing.  These little balls of goat cheese are about marble size and take no more than 10 minutes to prepare.  You can really roll them in anything.  I chose some things I had on hand – parsley, dill, pecans, black pepper, and took her advice for rolling them in paprika to get that stripe.

One Year Ago: Petites Pissladières
Two Years Ago: Poblano and Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms

Herbed and Spiced Goat Cheese Balls
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook
Makes about 3 dozen

1¼ pounds soft goat cheese
2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
2 tbsp. finely chopped dill
2 tbsp. finely chopped pecans
1 tbsp. freshly cracked black pepper
2 tsp. paprika
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Form 1 tablespoon of the goat cheese into a small ball.  Transfer to the baking sheet.  Continue with the remaining cheese.  Refrigerate the balls for 10 minutes to set slightly.

In separate bowls, place the parsley, dill, pecans, and pepper.  Roll several balls in each of the coatings and set aside.  To make the paprika band, sprinkle the paprika in a straight thin line on a cutting board.  Straighten the edges of the paprika with a knife.  Roll some of the balls down the line to form the paprika strip.

Pour the olive oil onto a serving platter.  Sprinkle the oil with the red pepper flakes.  Arrange the goat cheese balls on the platter and serve with toothpicks.

Butternut Squash Curry

December 28, 2010

Confession.  I made this curry quite a while ago.  Like a few months ago.  Aside from the epic Christmas Eve meal last week and a casual dinner I will do for my in-laws this coming Thursday, I have not been making a lot of dinners.  We have had lots of parties and nights out alternated with lots of sickness.  I’ve been baking like crazy (I still have three coffee cakes I need to tell you about), but not much that is healthy or savory.

I haven’t mentioned this in a while, but I love Indian food.  And there really is no good Indian food in Seattle.  We never even try anymore because inevitably both of us get sick from the restaurants where we go.  I hear there are a couple of good spots across the lake, but after 6½ years of commuting across a bridge for work, Randy is not all that eager to head East for a night out.  Consequently, when we want Indian food, I make it.  I have a few cookbooks that I adore but for this meal, I decided to wing it.

I used fresh curry leaves in this dish which are not all that easy to find.  If you live in Seattle, sometimes Uwajimaya has them and otherwise, there is a tiny Indian grocer/VHS tape rental place on the Ave right near Ravenna.  He has very little fresh food, but has had curry leaves whenever I have asked for them.  They impart a difficult to describe flavor to this and all Indian dishes but do not fret if you can’t find them.  Just make it anyway.  Our month of gluttony is going to continue all the way to the last minutes of the 31st, but you can bet I’m making this again come January.  Tasty, healthy, easy.

Butternut Squash and Cashew Curry
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

I served this dish with basmati rice and a flat bread that I made but didn’t like much.  If you are looking to make your own, I can highly recommend this recipe.

Vegetable oil
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt
½ tsp. black mustard seeds
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
10 fresh curry leaves (optional)
2 small dried chiles (optional)
¾ cup unsalted roasted cashews
1 tsp. ground tumeric
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 14-ounce can lite coconut milk
½ cup water
12 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
Juice of 1 lime

Place a large skillet over medium heat.  Add just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom and then add the squash and a large pinch of salt.  Cook until golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Don’t worry if it sticks slightly to the pan, you will be able to scrape up those bits after you add the liquid.  Transfer the squash to a bowl and set aside.

Add a bit more oil to the skillet and then add the mustard seeds.  Once they start to pop, in about 1 minute, add the onions, garlic, ginger, chiles, and curry leaves.  Stir until the popping slows down.  Cook until the onions are golden, about 5 minutes.  Add the cashews, tumeric, and cumin; stir-fry 1 minute.  Add the coconut milk, tofu, and water and increase the heat to medium-high.  Boil until thickened, about 2 minutes.  Return the squash to the pan and reduce the heat to medium.  Simmer until the squash is very tender, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the cilantro and lime juice.  Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.

Soup for a Hangover

September 14, 2010

(Note:  After I wrote about a corn pudding in my post about the Chard Tart, I got some email asking when I would be sharing that recipe.  It’s up now at Amazon Fresh.  Go check it out – it’s a new favorite!  Depending on when you read this, you may have to scroll down a bit on that page.)

Sometimes I have these moments when writing posts for my blog when I wonder, “Am I revealing too much here?”  A while ago, I wrote a post which included a story about drinking too much.  And here I am again with a suggestion for good food to eat when you have a hangover.  My last post was about the mixed emotions I have about my kids growing up and now a recipe that came after a night of overindulging.  Is that weird?

I know a lot of wonderful women, some mothers and some not, who love their beer/wine/cocktails.  I’m guessing if you stop by here often and have come to know a little about who I am, the fact that I love a good glass of wine or three will not be surprising to you.  Because I am vegetarian, because I really sincerely like healthy food, because I am in shape, and because I have a dedicated yoga practice, some people might assume that all I drink is vitamin water and freshly brewed tea.  But that is not the case.

Last Sunday night, I probably would have been fine if I had alternated vitamin water or freshly brewed tea with the I-lost-count-of-how-many-bottles of wine we had at our dinner party.  But I did not and I woke up feeling, um, not great.  I have kids who are really good sleepers but if there is one thing I can count on, it is that if I need them to sleep in a bit, they will wake up earlier than usual.  And then, they will need to be entertained.  And fed.  The nerve.

In this particular instance, Randy was worse off than I was, so I took the boys out of the house and attempted to run them in the rain.  This is a pretty standard activity for a weekend day but in this case, I was also trying to insure that they would take a nap.  As I revealed in my last drinking post, I tend to feel worse as the day wears on.  Last Monday was no exception.  I took comfort in the fact that I didn’t have to cook that night and could just lie still for a few hours while the boys napped.

But I happened to pick up my already much-loved copy of Plenty while on my back and without searching found this recipe for Tomato, Semolina, and Cilantro Soup.  Like most people, what I want to eat when I have a hangover is a huge plate of greasy eggs and hashbrowns.  With a side of Tabasco.  At the same time, when I have a hangover, I feel -well, puffy.  I want grease but I need something really healthy and light.  In this instance, because I felt particularly bad, I wanted something comforting.  I also wanted something to show for myself after wasting a perfectly good holiday (Labor Day) doing basically nothing.

I had everything on hand for this soup and it came together beautifully.  Now, to keep it from essentially tasting like savory Cream of Wheat (not that there is anything wrong with that), I added some texture with some small cooked pasta that I had in my refrigerator.  I prefer something to chew on in my soup so I loved the noodles in there.  I also thought chickpeas would be a great addition but opted to keep it simple and close to the original recipe.  The soup thickens as it sits so you will want to thin it with some water if you make it in advance.  I would also recommend seasoning repeatedly throughout the process because it needs a lot of salt.  After eating this soup and a salad for dinner and a good night’s sleep, I felt like a new person the next day.

One Year Ago: Nectarine and Mascarpone Tart in Gingersnap Crust
Two Years Ago: Chantarelle and Corn Risotto with Fresh Thyme and Basil

Tomato, Semolina, and Cilantro Soup
Adapted from Plenty
Serves 4-6

Olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
1½ tsp. sweet paprika
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
½ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
6 cups water, plus more for thinning if necessary
1½ tbsp. sugar
1 cup semolina
1 cup cooked pasta
Juice of 1 lemon
Greek yogurt (for garnish)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Put a medium soup pot over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the onion and celery along with a good pinch of salt.  Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the coriander, cumin, paprika, thyme, and half the cilantro.  Sauté until the onion is golden and soft and the mixture is very fragrant, about another 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste, another pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and the tomatoes; cook for another minute.  Pour in the water and sprinkle in the sugar and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Next, add the semolina to the simmering soup in a slow steady stream as you whisk vigorously.  Keep on cooking for 10 minutes whisking occasionally to avoid lumps.  Add the pasta and squeeze in the lemon juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Before serving, add more water if the soup is too thick for your liking.  Ladle into bowls and spoon yogurt on top.  Garnish with the remaining cilantro.

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