Monday, February 27, 2012

Dried Cherry- and Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Winter squash can be intimidating. There are a number of varieties, all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. does one cut it, or peel it? And what on earth is that gunk that butternut squash leave on your hands post-peeling - the sap that makes your skin peel off? Almost makes me not want to battle these wonderful winter starches. But they're really worth it...

There are a number of ways to prepare winter squashes. Slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, and cost the halves for a puree with a touch of caramelized depth. Or cube up the pieces and throw it in the steamer for a lighter puree. I love these tips, or will often peel, cube, and roast the vegetable-du-jour it until each piece is crispy in the corner, tender inside, and with a rich caramelized color all around. Delicious. But even then, after a couple of times of making this (I've used it in pasta, risotto, omelettes, salads, and more), it can get monotonous.

For someone gluten- and corn-free like me, finding healthy carbohydrates to satisfy my hankering can be a challenge. Squash saves the day, so I'm always thinking of new ways to serve up this starch (My vegetables aren't vegetables unless they're green!)

Stuffed squash is one of my new favorite go-tos. Start with some sausage, or for vegetarians, a base of brown rice. Supplement with sweeteners (honey or maple syrup) and spices as you wish, then add a variety of flavorings from cherries and pine nuts to something exotic, like pineapple, coconut, and chopped macadamia nuts. You can even try greens — kale, miso, and a garnish of scallion sounds delicious, doesn’t it?

Dried Cherry and Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash, sliced in half and seeds scooped out
4 tablespoons olive oil, for brushing, plus more for sautéing
4 tablespoons maple syrup, for brushing
Salt, to taste
2 large yellow onions, finely diced
6 turkey sausage links, removed from casings
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup pinenuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Trim off the bottom of each squash half so each sits flat. Brush with olive oil and maple syrup. Season with salt and bake for about 1 hour, or until the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the onions and turn the heat to medium high. Cook for about 10 minutes or until onions are golden and translucent. Season with a pinch of salt and add the turkey sausage. Cook about 10 minutes, or until the meat is cooked most of the way through. Add the cherries and remove from heat. Set aside.

Once the squash is tender, fill each with stuffing. Bake for about 10 minutes, until everything is warmed through. Garnish with pinenuts and serve immediately.

Serves: 4

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Healthiest Cookies You'll Ever Eat

Yes, for you health nuts out there, that is.

Now, let me start my saying I may be a health nut in that I need some sort of physical movement to sleep well, and I love (LOVE!) my dark green vegetables. But I've also been known to dip my fries in mayo, love salted butter on pancakes, and an herb-filled compound butter on my rare steak. But as now gluten and dairy-free (plus oat and corn, really, for me), something has GOT to give.

I recently made these cookies for my sister. I first saw the recipe over at Jess Thomson's blog. And when, to my delight, I found her recipe was inspired by one of those from ANOTHER one of my favorite home cooks and bloggers, Heidi Swanson, and her recipe in Supernatural Everyday for Carnival Cookies. There is no butter... instead, coconut butter (Melissa Clark of The New York Times can even speak to my obsession. See here.) In lieu of flour, there are rich and filling grains like oats and my favorite, millet. They aren't too sweet, thanks to pureed banana, and as with any sweets recipe I like, they include chocolate. Because isn't everything better with chocolate?

See for yourself. Warning. They're messy to roll. But right out of the oven, with a glass of vanilla almond milk (I feel like a crunchy person. Wait, I kind of am), they're oh so so good. They probably shouldn't even be called cookies...

Healthy Oat, Chocolate, Millet "Cookies"

4 large, over-ripened bananas, mashed well
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup melted coconut oil, at room temperature (i.e. liquid and cool, not solid or super hot)
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats (if, like me, oats are a no-no, substitute kamut or brown rice flakes)
3/4 cup raw millet
3/4 cup almond meal/flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup roasted pecans
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1 cup popcorn (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet (or two) with a Silpat or parchment.

In a large bowl, combine bananas, vanilla, and oil. Mix well with a spoon and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients up to the nuts. Mix well with a fork. Add to the wet ingredients and mix well to combine. Stir in the nuts, chips, and optional popcorn. Stir to combine.

Using a tablespoon, roll dough into balls. (Yes, it's messy and they seem like they're going to fall apart. Pack well and minimize handling.) Place on cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden on top. Let cool for 10 minutes before transferring. Best still-warm, with almond milk.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Super-Rich Dark Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Who doesn't love chocolate? And in honor of Valentine's Day, I had to indulge myself and get baking (baking is the indulgence, not the chocolate. My day isn't complete without at least a small piece!)

Now gluten- and dairy-free, finding a dark chocolate cookie that satisfies my cravings but doesn't leave my stomach aching can be a challenge. No more traditional brownies (I'll take mine made with coconut oil, thank you very much). And sorry City Bakery, I no longer come in for my stressful day fixes (same with you, Levain Bakery... but you're worth breaking the rules). But these hit the spot. Just one small cookie, not too sweet, and oh-so-dark and chocolaty. They're REALLY good.

Dark Chocolate Gluten-Free Crinkle Cookies

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1-inch chunks and partly melted over double boiler
3 egg whites
2 cups confectioner's sugar, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Ghiradelli)
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
1/3 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with Silpat. Let melted chocolate cool to room temperature. In a mixer, whip whites at high speed til very frothy. Add 1 cup confectioner's sugar and whip until the mixture resembles smooth marshmallow cream, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together remaining sugar, cocoa powder, starch, and salt. Gradually add the mixture to the cream, beating well after each addition, at a slow speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the warm, melted chocolate to the mixture and mix to combine. The dough will immediately stiffen up.

Makes about 25 cookies

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Taleggio-Topped Stuffed Portobello Caps

Over the holidays, I gave my mom Yotam Ottelenghi's Plenty cookbook. With European and Middle Eastern influence, the pages are filled with a number of brightly-colored vegetable-based dishes with all sorts of exotic flavors, with recipes such as warm glass noodles with edamame, Castelluccio lentils with roasted tomatoes and gorgonzola, and Puy lentil galettes - what to make first?

This recipe is inspired by the first recipe I'd made from the book, and it's an instant keeper. Ottolenghi cooks down onions, celery, tarragon, Parmigiano, and sun-dried tomatoes. He then spoons this mouth-watering filling (it's amazing in an omelette, if have leftovers... and can resist not eating it by the spoonful) atop the just-tender portobello caps, and then tops everything off with slices of Taleggio cheese. (Note: The images here are pre-cheese melting. We ate them all too fast to document evidence of their success once they emerged out of the oven again).

I adapted the original recipe a bit, using roasted tomatoes I had made two days prior, and substituting the tarragon with more basil (mine bit the dust too early). I'd also be curious to add some finely chopped zucchini to the mixture. For the topping, I used a mixture of raw milk Taleggio and one made with pasteurized cheese. While I much prefer the piquant aroma and flavor of the raw milk Taleggio, it is super-soft and can be a challenge when slicing. 

These little beauties are well worth the effort, and are perfect for a light lunch, or as I served them, with roasted chicken sausages (and red wine!) for a warming meal on a snowy and cold winter's night.

Taleggio-Topped Stuffed Portobello Caps
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty

3 large portobello caps (mine were about 4-6 inches wide), stems trimmed
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sautéing 
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 1/2 cups roasted tomatoes (from about 2 pints of cherry tomatoes)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
1/2 cup basil leaves, chiffonaded, plus more for garnish
6 slices Taleggio, about 1/8-1/4-inch thick

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle mushrooms with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake until they start to become tender and begin to release juices, about 20-30 minutes (I baked mine 20 minutes, then turned the oven off and walked the dogs for 15 minutes... Came back and they were perfect).

Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan with oil. Add the onion and celery and cook until tender, but not yet golden, about 5-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook for a few minutes longer. Remove from heat and set aside to let cool completely. 

Once the stuffing is cool, stir in the cheese and basil. Top each cap with about 1/2-3/4 cup filling, and then layer on the slices of Taleggio. Bake for 10 minutes more, until the cheese is melted and the mushrooms are tender.

Serve immediately.

Serves three as a starter, a topping for a lunch salad, or as a hearty vegetable accompaniment to meat.

Note: While I link to a recipe where I roast the tomatoes with some olive oil, if you have particularly flavorful tomatoes, no oil is needed. Throw the clean tomatoes in a baking pan and sprinkle with salt. Roast at 400 degrees until the skins begin to burst, shaking the pan about halfway through. Stir the tomatoes to let more juices escape, and cool completely.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Harvest Kale Salad with Honey-Miso Dressing

I love dark winter greens, kale in particular. It's fabulous in hearty vegetarian stews, sautéed, or used in risotto. My favorite preparation, however, is in a salad. Tossed with a good dressing, it never wilts — in fact, I almost like it more the next day.

Harvest Kale Salad with Honey-Miso Dressing

This recipe was inspired by the number of colorful vegetables you can find in the dead of winter (yes, color does exist in a deep freeze). Rich butternut squash, possibly roasted with garlic and rosemary, tart dried cranberries, and buttery toasted nuts. You could also add caramelized onions, or roasted purple potatoes to the mix. And of course, a dusting of snowy, white cheese, if you're so inclined.

For the salad:
1 bunch dinosaur kale, cut into a fine chiffonade (aka Lacinato or Tuscan kale)
1 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 avocado, cut into small chunks

For the dressing:
1/4 cup white miso, at room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup grape seed oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

For the salad:
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the avocado. Toss well and set aside.

For the dressing:
In a glass jar, combine the miso, honey, and vinegar and mix well. Add the oil and ginger and shake well. (You can also let it sit 24 hours, at least overnight, for the ginger to mellow and infuse.)

Spoon over the kale salad and toss to coat. Let sit for about 30-60 minutes or overnight to allow the leaves to slightly wilt. Add the avocado and serve immediately.

NOTE: If you don't have honey, you can also use maple syrup. No roasted butternut squash? Explore using other roasted root vegetables, like beets, baby potatoes, or carrots. A garnish of goat cheese or blue cheese would also make a nice addition, if you can tolerate dairy.

Servings: 4
Dairy-free, Vegetarian, Gluten-free

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Inspiration

It's a sunny Sunday and the slopes beckon.
With my morning tea and fried egg (thanks Kate and Matt for making this a new favorite), a little fun video to get you excited for spring. I'm doing this with a bunch of friends in NYC. Will you join us?