winter grain bowls

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Finding creative ways to incorporate vegetables into your diet can be tricky, particularly during the colder months when we crave hibernation food.  This is answer. It’s warm. It’s got grains that can trick your mind into thinking you’re having pasta. It has cheese.

Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely love vegetables.  It’s just that sometimes the small child inside that fought so hard against the tyranny of peas before cookies and greens before mac and cheese makes me think I don’t want to eat them. So I am often in search of ways to want to eat my vegetables; for preparations that make me excited about them.  This is one of those, I promise.

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The prep is a bit intensive if you don’t have a food processor.  Hand shredding, chopping, and dicing can give you a touch of the carpal tunnel. Take breaks! Drink some wine while you practice those knife skills (or while you watch your food processor whir). But I did and survived, and lived to tell the tale.  Luckily this keeps really well, it is definitely a dish that can be made on a Sunday and eaten throughout the week.

So whether you love eating vegetables or have to force them upon yourself, this will stick to your ribs the way a good winter meal should.

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Winter grain bowl
Serves 4-6

2 links chicken sausage, cooked (optional)
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup farro
2 shallots, diced
1 large sweet potato, shredded
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 ½ cups shredded brussel sprouts
1 ½ cups cooked, chopped spinach
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp sage
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cook quinoa and farro together in a pot, and set aside to cool. Remove casings from chicken sausage (if using), cook and set aside.
  1. Sautee shallots, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts over medium heat. Once all the vegetables have softened, add spinach, garlic, sage, and thyme; and salt and pepper to taste. Cook together for 5-7 more minutes.
  1. Turn heat to low, and add back in sausage, feta, and cooked quinoa and faro; mix everything together. Taste to see if you want more salt and pepper. Dole out in bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil. (Also highly recommended: top with sliced or mashed avocado).
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winter grain bowls

tomato toast

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Come late August, early September, tomatoes become an endangered species.  They are still around, but slowly starting to disappear, reminding you that soon enough the prominent real estate they’ve been holding will be relinquished to the apples and pumpkins of autumn.

But there is still time! Just a couple more weeks to soak up all the delicious sweet and savory tomatoeness.  And what better way to do that than by treating them with the utmost reverence?

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This is not fancy. Nor is it complex. In fact, it seems likely that a monkey could put this dish together.  But that doesn’t make it any less tasty.  A great recipe doesn’t always require that you have intensive skill in the kitchen, but should be something you may not have conceived of on your own.

The funny thing about how much I adore making this is that I used to be afraid of mayonnaise.  I loved it, I recognized its value and importance in my diet, but alas.  It irked me.  I couldn’t bring myself to use it.  Then someone made me tomato toast–and I was forever changed. I had to be able to make it for myself, because I was craving it constantly. It tasted like summer. So I faced my fears of mayonnaise. And I’ve never looked back.

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The moral of this slightly rambling story is that if you too love those late summer tomatoes (and herbs, the herbs in the mayo are important) and just want to savor them as long as possible, this is the dish for you.  Ridiculously easy and silly delicious, it is just the way to send these summer delights off in style.  Until next summer when they once again grace us with their abundance.

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Tomato Toast
serves 2

4 slices hearty, thick sliced multigrain bread
1/2 cup good mayonnaise (if you feel daring, make your own, I entrust you to the geniuses at serious eats for that)
1/2 teaspoon each of basil, chives, tarragon, and parsley, diced (or any combination there of that is to your liking)
A bunch of various colored tomatoes, in thick slices (since they come in all shapes and sizes, I leave it to you to determine how much is right. As these photos show, I tend to pile on as many as possible)
Salt and pepper to taste, extra chives for garnish

  1. Combine your herbs and mayo until well combined.
  2. Toast the breads, lightly.
  3. Smear the mayo, on the toasts.
  4. Arrange the tomato slices atop the toasts. Cover with salt, pepper, and extra chives. Eat immediately. Savor summer.
tomato toast

succotash & shrimps

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Like most kids, I was not always a huge fan of eating my vegetables.  I have vivid memories of crying shriveled peas that had to be consumed before I was allowed my dino-shaped chicken nuggets, and of stealthily hiding florets of browning boiled broccoli in my hands and then sneaking them into the trash can to gain access to the evenings offering of macaroni and cheese.  To my parents’ credit they did try to encourage healthy habits (a success for the most part; as adults my sisters and I are all still of the mind there must be a vegetable somewhere on the dinner table), but clearly I was a bit of a vegetable evasion MacGyver back then.

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But those days are behind me.  I have evolved.  I love vegetables now, particularly in the months of the year when I can get them fresh from farmers’ markets.  That has been the true difference.  That, and knowing that most vegetables can be utterly transformed into the part of the meal I am most eager to eat with the help of a little love and seasoning.  The shriveled, overcooked, and unseasoned veggies-0f-yore are long gone.  And good riddance.

This succotash is an ode to what a vegetable dish can and should be.  Simple, but tasty. Quick, but memorable.  In June corn is sweet and super affordable, and is as delicious raw as it is thrown on a grill.  Shelling peas would be a treat but frozen are just as effective.  And the zucchini are just starting to appear.  All sautéed together quickly in a hot pan of slightly browned butter et voilà, all former fears of vegetables are eradicated.  Alongside a little bit of lemon-drenched shrimp and you have a full meal.  Just add white wine.

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succotash & shrimps
serves 4

2 medium zucchini, diced
2 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob
1/3 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup shelled peas
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt, pepper, and lemon to taste

  1. Dice the red onion and zucchini into bite size bits to match the corn kernels and the peas.  Over medium heat, melt the butter in a sauté pan until it just begins to brown (it will have a nutty smell and appear golden).  Immediately add the zucchini and onion and cook for 5 minutes or until they soften and begin to brown.  Add in the corn and peas and cook until just warm, about two minutes.  Season with salt and pepper then remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Pat shrimp dry (this will help them brown), and salt and pepper to taste on both sides.  Cook over medium-high heat with a bit of olive oil for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until they are just pink.  Turn heat to low and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the shrimp (the heat from the pan my cause some splatter).  Stir to coat all the shrimp and pick up the tasty brown bits at the bottom of your pan. (If you’ve got a grill, cooking your shrimp on it instead of on the stove would be a wonderful deviation).
  3. Place shrimp on top of succotash and give an additional hit of lemon, salt and pepper if necessary.  If you have fresh herbs, say basil or chives, they would be a great way to add from brightness sprinkled over the dish. Serve immediately.

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succotash & shrimps

makeshift muesli (parfait!)

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Before I talk about how wonderful and easy muesli is, let’s start with an introduction to the facts.  Bon Appétit put together this extremely eloquent breakdown on the difference between granola and muesli, and I couldn’t hope to say it better.  The short of it is this: The two share the same general ingredients; oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc. But where granola is baked and requires a binder like honey or butter to create its signature chunks, muesli is simply a raw and loose.  Both are typically served with milk or yogurt.  Not surprisingly granola has long been more popular in America (it tends to be sweeter, so…).

But muesli is overdue for its moment around here.  It is so easy to throw together with things from your pantry.  It has no added fats or sugars and you just feel healthier when you eat it. Trust me, I’ve done the research.

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The secret element here is toasting.  Toasting brings out the nuttiness of the nuts, the oatiness of the oats, and the toastiness of the coconut.  And like so many things it’s worth making yourself because you can control the proportions of the ingredients.  It comes together in a flash–whether done in a big batch in the oven or a quick single portion in a pan on the stove.  Throw it over cold Greek yogurt with a little maple syrup or honey and it is brilliant for breakfast or lovely for lunch.  Breakfast food for the win. Always.

makeshift museli
You can alter the amount of each ingredient depending on your preferences–and increase or decrease depending on how much you want to make.  These proportions will make 4 servings.

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Makeshift Muesli (parfait)

1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup nuts, chopped (I used a mix of hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds)
1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped (I had cranberries but apricots, raisins, blueberries…all strong options)
1/3 cup flaked or shredded coconut
pinch of sea salt
plain Greek yogurt & maple syrup for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread nuts in an even layer on a cookie sheet and toast for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and add oats and coconut to the baking sheet, stirring everything together and return to oven for an additional 3 minutes.  Watch closely to avoid burning. Remove from oven, sprinkle mix with a pinch of sea salt, and set aside to cool.
  2. Once cool, add in the dried fruit and stir to combine.  Serve over plain Greek yogurt and top with a drizzle of maple syrup and consume. Or swap in flavored yogurt, or honey, or jam. Do you.

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makeshift muesli (parfait!)

roasted three squash soup (with spiced yogurt)

IMG_6689Few things are as satisfying on a cold October day than a mug of soup.  Something that is equally satisfying is finding a way to use the different varieties of squash that came out of your CSA farmshare that have been serving merely as decorative gourds because you didn’t know how to use them all.IMG_6693Whenever I am at the farmers’ market I find myself staring longingly at all the crates of squash, they are just so festive.  I am particularly drawn to the miniature ones.  Be honest, you are too.  So while you’re digging around in the back of your closet for your thick socks and your sweaters, this is the perfect thing to have bubbling away on the stove.

Butternut squash soup is easy and a standby once fall comes around, but every now and again it needs a reboot to keep things exciting.  The delicata and buttercup squash add other flavor dimensions, roasting them brings out their sweetness, and generally I am a sucker for anything with pumpkin pie spice — and it really just makes this soup that much better.  You can use other squash varieties (like sugar pumpkin which would fit perfectly in this crew), these are just what I had on hand.

IMG_6712I had considered getting ambitious and caramelizing some roasted pumpkin seeds to put on top, but lost steam and got hungry so I ate it with a hunk of baguette instead (a choice I don’t regret).  I encourage you to eat it however you see fit.

IMG_6688roasted three squash soup with spiced yogurt

SOUP
1 medium butternut squash
1 medium delicata squash
1 medium buttercup squash
1 cup yellow onion, diced
3 ½ cups vegetable stock
1 cup apple cider
½ cup heavy cream
2 tbs butter
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice (OR ½ tsp each of cinnamon, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, and ground ginger)
½ tsp each of fresh thyme and fresh sage, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste

YOGURT TOPPER
1cup plain greek yogurt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a tiny pinch of each of the spices listed above)

  1. Set oven at 350 degrees. Slice each squash down the middle lengthwise and remove the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet flesh-side-down and bake for 30 minutes or until fork tender.
  2. Let the squash cool and using a spoon scrape out the flesh from the skins and set aside.
  3. In a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat, melt butter and sauté the onions until soft and translucent. Add in the spices, herbs, and squash, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Add in the cider and stock, cover, turn down the heat to medium low, and let simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. If after 20 minutes everything is softened (if not, give it 5 more minutes or so), remove from the heat and blend (either with a hand blender or transfer the mix in batches to a traditional blender). Return to pot and stir in the cream. Test the flavor for seasoning, adding more spice, salt, and pepper if needed.
  5. Stir spices into the yogurt and serve a healthy dollop on top of each cup of soup with an additional dusting of spice.IMG_6709
roasted three squash soup (with spiced yogurt)

arugula fennel citrus salad

Salad can be sexy, when it wants to be. I feel akin to salad in this way. It may not be easy, and you definitely have to work for it, but it can happen. Besides it’s what’s on the inside that counts and this salad is overflowing with inherent goodness.

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It’s bright and refreshing, and helped me understand why some cultures eat salad as a palate cleanser course after the main dish. It’s not necessarily an everyday salad. The flavors are bold but not overwhelming, which sounds oxymoronic but it’s true. They are flavors begging to be served alongside some seafood or with just with some bread and cheese. And wine.

IMG_6158So really, this is a sexy salad. Splashy colors…aggressive flavors…but approachable. What else could you ask for?

arugula fennel citrus salad

orange (or grapefruit)
fennel bulb, sliced uber thin
radishes, sliced uber thin
avocado, sliced
baby arugula
toasted pistachios
shaved parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
olive oil

The amount of any ingredient used is to your specific taste, and for how much salad you intend to make.  There are no rules with this–everyone’s sexy…er, salad…is different.

Per the photos above, build up your salad starting with the arugula. Supreme the citrus (instructions here), and then squeeze the juice from the remaining pith over everything. Drizzle some olive oil, add salt and pepper, then toss all together.  Serve it up immediately.

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arugula fennel citrus salad

farfalle with zucchini greek yogurt and lemon

It’s true, there is yogurt in this pasta. Your first inclination might be to think that is not quite right, but think again my friends. Everyone secretly loves a creamy, cheesy pasta dish, but it inevitably makes you feel super bloated and full for about 2.37 days. Greek yogurt is the solution.IMG_6082Tangy is Greek yogurt’s most widely recognized characteristic, and it definitely brings that to the table here. But paired with a tiny bit of cream cheese, a healthy dose of salt, and the brightness of lemon zest–it really works.  And it’s just creamy enough to give that element of comfort minus the food hangover.
IMG_6074Rainy spring nights are the perfect setting for a heaping bowl of pasta, and thankfully (albeit slowly) vegetable isles across the northeast are once again showing signs of life. Grated zucchini is a pop of color and a subtle flavor that melts right into the mix and doesn’t event require additional cooking.  Frozen peas add a sweetness that offsets the zing of the yogurt and lemon. Someday I will swap them out for fresh peas…someday.
IMG_6083Important note to leave you with: feel free to get heavy handed with that parmesan cheese. It’s for your own good.

farfalle with zucchini, greek yogurt, and lemon
…slightly tweaked from Al Forno in Providence, RI via Food & Wine
serves 4-6

1 pound dried farfalle pasta
1 cup frozen peas
2 large zucchini, grated
3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
2 tbs plain cream cheese
2 tbs unsalted butter
zest and juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnishing
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt the water, and cook pasta for 10 minutes or until just cooked.  In the last minute throw in the frozen peas to flash cook. Drain (reserving a cup of pasta cooking water) and set aside.
2. In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter and then turn off the flame. Add in the yogurt, cream cheese, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
3. Incorporate the zucchini, peas, and pasta.  Stir together, incorporating reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if desired.  Add the parmesan cheese and taste for seasoning, add additional salt and pepper if needed.
4. Serve hot with extra cheese (see note above).
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farfalle with zucchini greek yogurt and lemon