Saturday, November 26, 2016

Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens

We celebrated Thanksgiving with prime rib, baked potatoes, veggies, salad, and of course...pie.  For the first time my prime rib turned out perfectly and it truly was a wonderful Thanksgiving with lots to give thanks for.  The only problem was that there WERE NO LEFTOVERS

No prime rib hash for breakfast, or pie for that matter. After cooking for so long, and hitting a few sales, I hardly felt like making anything complicated so I was very thankful to stumble across Heidi Swanson's recipe for Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens

This is one of those recipes that you put in your back pocket and pull out when you want comforting food that is quick and easy, yet blows your taste buds through the roof. Also, if you're like me and you spent a little too much money holiday shopping, this one is also easy on the wallet. Total score.  All around.

In her book Heidi says, "I get more requests for this recipe than any other. The crisp golden crust on the beans encases a rich and creamy center, creating an irresistibly delicious combination.  The greens provide a nutritionally packed accent as well as beautiful color."  I agree. I found this to be one of the tastiest things I've had in awhile and will definitely be making it again. I think it would be wonderful served over bruschetta, as Heidi suggests in the book. I also think you could spice it up by adding chilies and/or any other spices or seasonings that you favor.  This is a very versatile recipe and one that I will be experimenting with in the future. I highly encourage you to give this a try!

Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking
by Heidi Swanson
Serves 6 to 8 as a side

1/2 pound medium or large dried white beans, cooked (or 1 can white beans)
3 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper, to taste
1 onion coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 or 7 big leaves Swiss chard, leaves cut into wide ribbons and 1 or 2 stems cut into 1/2 " pieces
olive oil, for drizzling
Parmesan cheese, for topping

Drain the beans, then heat the butter over medium high heat in the widest skillet you've got. (I like a cast iron pan for this).  Add the beans to the hot pan in a single layer. If you don't have a big enough skillet, just do the saute step in two batches or save the extra beans for another use. Stir to coat the beans with butter, then let them sit long enough to brown on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes, before turning to brown the other side, also about 3 or 4 minutes. The beans should be golden and a bit crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. Salt and pepper, to taste, then add the onion and garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onion softens. Stir in the chard and cook until just beginning to wilt. Remove from the heat and season to taste with a generous dose of salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan. 

Let's Give Thanks @ IHCC

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Autumn Inspired Buddha Bowl

This Buddha Bowl was inspired by Heidi Swanson's Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts. The perfectly golden caramelized rounds of brussels sprouts coated in nutty Parmesan cheese spoke to me every time I paged through my copy of Super Natural Cooking, begging to be made.

Since brussels sprouts themselves do not constitute a buddha bowl, and that is our theme this week at IHCC, I looked around my pantry and gathered ingredients I felt would compliment them. I came out with a quinoa and brown rice mix, sweet potatoes, dried cranberries, glazed pecans, and some Dukkah. An autumnal mix of ingredients for sure.

I cooked the quinoa and brown rice mix adding a touch of butter, cut the sweet potato in cubes and roasted it, and prepared the brussels sprouts. Afterwards I layered it all in the bowl, with the dried cranberries, glazed pecans, and a sprinkling of Dukkah (a nut and spice blend) and called it dinner.

Overall, the bowl was delicious but I do have to say the Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts were my favorite part. I loved the caramelized flat sides, and my favorite parts were the sprouts that were covered in a crusty coating of Parmesan cheese. Delicious!

Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking
by Heidi Swanson 
Serves 4

24 small Brussels Sprouts
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup grated cheese of your choice (Parmesan)

Trim the stem ends of the brussels sprouts and remove any raggedy outer leaves.  Cut in half from stem to top and gently rub each half with olive oil, keeping it intact. Heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil in your largest skillet over medium heat. Don't cook too quickly. Place the brussels sprouts in the pan, flat side down, sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt and pepper, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes; the bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. Cut into or taste one of the sprouts to gauge whether they're tender throughout. If not, cover and cook for a few more minutes.

Once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use a metal spatula to toss them once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side. Season with more salt, a few grins of pepper, and a dusting of grated cheese. While you might be able to get away with keeping a platter of these warm in the oven for a few minutes, they are exponentially tastier if popped in your mouth immediately.

Buddha Bowls @ IHCC

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Winter Rainbow Gratin

It's been a tough and emotional week. At the beginning of the week I found myself very anxious about the presidential election. In fact, on the night the results poured in, I was practically sitting on the edge of my seat. I found myself screaming at the TV, like a devout football fan watching the Superbowl. I knew that no matter the outcome, emotions would be on high. I think I underestimated how high the emotions would be.

The week ended with my baby turning double digits. My little guy, who is definitely not little anymore, turned 10. After the election was over, I poured every spare minute into throwing one last big blowout of a birthday party. We rented a rolling game truck, invited about 15 kids, and went all out.  The kids had a fabulous time and I was happy to throw the party, but I am emotionally, physically, and financially drained.

Desperately in need of easy comfort food, I happened upon this recipe for Winter Rainbow Gratin. Just so happened that I had all the ingredients and the directions didn't have me running for the door. Even still, I had to pry myself off the couch to get started. Within a few minutes I was happily chopping veggies (one of my favorite kitchen tasks) and I felt a certain calm I hadn't felt all week. Kitchen therapy is real.

This gratin is a combination of red potatoes, butternut squash (or you could sub sweet potato), shallots, carrot, green onions, and apple topped with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. It's gorgeous to look at, very savory and satisfying, and ultimately comforting. Just the right thing to end a crazy hectic week.

Winter Rainbow Gratin
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking
by Heidi Swanson
Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons butter and a drizzle of olive oil
4 small purple and/or red potatoes, unpeeled and cut into wedges
4 small shallots, sliced thinly
1 quarter of a butternut squash, about 1 cup cubed
4 young yellow and/or orange carrots, cut in half lengthwise if thicker than your thumb
4 green onions, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 apple or pear, unpeeled, cored, and cut into 6 wedges
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Optional: butter or oil for drizzling on top prior to baking*

Preheat the oven to 375F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Heat the butter in your largest ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. In a single layer, add the potatoes, shallots, squash, carrots, and green onions and toss to coat. Try not to overcrowd the pan, or the vegetables will steam and not brown. If you don't have a big enough pan, split the ingredients between two skillets. Saute over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, shaking the pan a couple of times along the way. The vegetables should start to brown a bit and be tender but not mushy.

Remove from the heat and sprinkle with a generous dose of salt and pepper. Stir in the apple wedges. If you don't have an ovenproof skillet, transfer the ingredients to an ovenproof baking dish or casserole. Sprinkle with all the bread crumbs and half of the Parmesan cheese. (Note: This method produces a fairly dry gratin, so my suggestion is to mix the breadcrumbs with a couple tablespoons of butter and/or oil to add some moisture back into the gratin - see optional ingredients*). You don't want to stir at this point; rather, let the crumbs and cheese perch right on top of the vegetables so they'll get nice and crunchy.

Place the uncovered skillet in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, tossing the vegetables with a metal spatula about halfway through. The potatoes and carrots should be golden, crispy, and caramelized where they touch the pan and soft and tender inside. When everything is caramelized and fragrant, remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Serve right from the skillet.

Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs we're celebrating squash by sharing both old and new recipes. This Winter Rainbow Gratin is certainly a contender, and much more sophisticated than my old standby, but it's hard to beat Tessa Kiros' Baked Butternut Squash.  Bright orange spears of squash topped with butter, brown sugar, and fragrant bay leaves makes for one of my favorite squash sides. It's a colorful, creamy, and sweet delight that always goes over well.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Risotto-Style Barley with Winter Citrus and Arugula

You know that traditional Italian risotto that everyone goes weak in the knees for? That risotto ain't going nothing on this Barley Risotto. Did I really dare say that? Yes, I did. And I will say it again and again.

Barley risotto is the way to go, folks! The barley puffs up into little round circles that pop in the mouth. Texture-wise they are a huge improvement on the traditional arborio rice used for risotto. What's even more is that I found I not only preferred the flavor of the barley, but also that barley yielded a much creamier risotto than any arborio rice version I've tried. In fact, I loved this barley version so much I might just throw out my arborio rice altogether!

If you've been looking to try something new, then I urge you to give this recipe a try. This is a hearty, comforting, soul-soothing recipe that pleases on all levels. The texture of barley really takes risotto to a whole new level. The bright citrus flavors pair well with the sharp bites of arugula and help to cut through the creaminess from the Mascarpone and Parmesan. Of course, the toasty walnuts on top bring this dish to a 10+ with their added crunch. A stunning dish!

Risotto-Style Barley with Winter Citrus and Arugula
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking
by Heidi Swanson
Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 or 2 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups pearled barley, rinsed and picked clean
1 cup dry white wine or stock
6 cups water
1 orange
grated zest of 1lemon
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese
2 big handfuls coarsely chopped arugula, or spinach
Handful of chopped/toasted walnuts, for garnish

Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add the onion, shallots, garlic, salt and pepper, and saute, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften.

Add the barley to the pot and stir until coated with a nice sheen, then add the white wine or stock and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, until the barley has absorbed the liquid a bit. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle, active simmer.

In increments, add about 6 cups of water, 1 cup at a time, letting the barley absorb most of the liquid between additions; this should take around 40 minutes altogether. Stir regularly, because you don't want the grains on the bottom of the pan to scorch. You will know when the barley is cooked because it won't offer up much resistance when chewing (it will, however, be chewier than Arborio rice). I think this risotto is better on the brothy side, so don't worry if there is a bit of unabsorbed liquid in the pot.

Meanwhile, grate the zest of the orange, then peal and segment the orange. Cut the segments in half, reserving any juices that leak out. When the barley is tender, stir in the orange zest, segments and juice, lemon zest, Parmesan, and Mascarpone. Taste and adjust seasoning if need be, then stir in the arugula. Garnish with the toasted walnuts before serving.