Roasted Squash and Red Onion Salad

October 19, 2008 at 10:32 am (101 cookbooks, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Vegetable dishes)

One of the few food blogs I read regularly is 101 cookbooks.  I often see recipes that I’d like to try, but rarely get around to making any of them.  Finally, the planets aligned, and I actually made one of Heidi’s featured recipes: roasted pumpkin salad.  I had bought two small squashes at the farmer’s market, but hadn’t gotten a chance to cook them before leaving for Italy.  I’m not positive, but I think they were sweet dumpling squashes: small, yellow with green striations, and shaped kind of like acorn squash, but less pointy.  I had planned on just roasting the squash halves, but then this squash salad recipe turned up in my inbox and I decided to repurpose the squashes.

I didn’t bother to peel my squash, since the skin looked quite thin.  It was a good decision, as the skin was soft and delicate once cooked.  Just one of my squashes made over 3 cups of diced squash, so I halved the other squash and roasted it on the same tray as the diced one.  I didn’t feel like getting another sheet dirty so I roasted my red onions on the same sheet as well.  The vegetables didn’t seem crowded at all, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem.  The vegetables roasted quite well, becoming sweet and carmelized, thanks to the generous glug of olive oil I spread over them.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find wild rice in the grocery store, so instead we bought a mix of basmati and a few grains of wild rice.

The dressing didn’t come out as creamy and white as the one in the photo. Perhaps I should have used a blender instead of my mini processor. Mine was a little gritty and greasy, and tasted primarily of lemon juice. It had a certain resemblance to a tahini dressing. I drizzled a little dressing on the salad, but I couldn’t taste it much after tossing all the ingredients together, so I kept adding more dressing, and ended up adding probably half the dressing to the rice. I think perhaps if I hadn’t mixed it in but just drizzled it on top it would have had a stronger flavor. As it was all that dressing made the salad quite rich and tasty, but still I couldn’t taste the dressing specifically. Derek added even more dressing to his portion, and we ended up using up all the dressing by the time the salad was finished. I can’t tell from Heidi’s instructions what fraction of the dressing she had intended for us to use, but it certainly ended up being quite a rich dish.

The dish was mildly flavored. I had subbed in thyme for the cilantro, and I quite liked the thyme flavor with the roasted squash. The pumpkin and thyme together oozed autumn, and the roasted onions added sweetness and a great deep purple color to the dish. I was worried the dish would be a bit too bland for Derek, but after adding salt and more dressing he really liked it. He only rated it a B, because he thought the dish wasn’t quite right, but that it has potential.

We ate the salad with black bean tortillas for dinner, and then had the leftovers for lunch the next day. I ended up adding the extra rice and the second squash as well, and it made quite a large lunch. However, we were hungry again a few hours later. I suppose that white rice and olive oil don’t make the most long-lasting meal.

I will try to make this recipe again, cutting back a little on the olive oil in the dressing, drizzling the dressing on top rather than mixing it in to the salad, and subbing a more hearty grain for the white rice. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get my hands on some wild rice.

Other recipes from 101 cookbooks that I’ve tried include the skinny omelet, the pan-roasted brussels sprouts, and the Big Sur power bars. Recipes still on my list to try include the five minute tomato sauce, Heidi’s frozen yogurt, the salsa of the year, and the harissa spaghetti, as well as another one of her many grain salads.

Update October 28, 2008:
I made this recipe again, but I couldn’t find small red onions so I subbed in small yellow onions. Perhaps I didn’t roast them long enough, but they were way too bland tasting, and not sweet and delicious like the red onions last time. The squash (the same kind) was still really tasty, and I used the same rice, but this time I was able to get cilantro for the dressing. I misread the directions and pureed the cilantro into the dressing, which resulted in a very thick, bright green paste. I thinned it a bit with water, but it tasted… weird. It wasn’t bad tasting, but neither Derek nor I would make it again, and most of it ended up getting thrown out. I know it would have tasted different if I had stirred in the cilantro rather than blending it, but I think I just don’t like that sunflower seed dressing. Next time I’m going to just make a vinaigrette I think, with thyme or rosemary.

Rating: B
Derek: B

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Truffled celery root and potato gratin

October 5, 2008 at 7:06 am (101 cookbooks, Beverage, C (1 star, edible), My brain, Root vegetables, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

I was trying to figure out what to do with a big piece of celery root in the fridge, and Derek suggested roasting it in the oven.  I had already julienned it, so I decided to make a casserole of sorts with potatoes and onions.  I was inspired by the Spanish omelet recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance, and tried to make a kind of creamy sauce to fill in the cracks between the vegetables, and hold the whole thing together.  I was also inspired by the Greek lemon and garlic potatoes from Cook’s Illustrated, and seasoned the dish with garlic, lemon, and fresh oregano. The final dish ended up sort of like a cross between a gratin and a frittata.

  • 1.5 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 3/4 pound celery root, julienned
  • 1 leek, sliced thinly
  • 1 small onion, sliced into half moons
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 3 Tbs. fresh oregano, minced
  • 1.5 ounces feta
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup lowfat milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Heat the olive oil on medium-high in a 12-inch oven-proof skillet.  Add the potatoes, celery root, leek, onions and salt and pepper, and cook until the potatoes start to soften.  Add the garlic and oregano and cook on medium for another 3 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and zest and feta and off heat.
  3. Beat the eggs with the milk, then pour over the vegetables.  Stir to distribute the egg mixture evenly.
  4. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the eggs are set.  Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes.

Derek liked this casserole quite a bit, although he said he wished there was more celery root and fewer potatoes (which were undercooked in his opinion). He also thought there was too much lemon juice. I also found it too acidic from the lemon juice, although I liked the lemon zest a lot. I couldn’t taste the oregano very much, and I thought it was a tad too salty.  The celery root was julienned so finely that it cooked much faster than the potatoes.

I think if I try this again I’ll use 1 pound each of potatoes and celery root and onion, and I’ll cut the celery root into a thicker julienne.  I’ll use half as much lemon juice and twice as much zest, and substitute thyme for the oregano, and an Italian pecorino-style cheese instead of feta.  I’d also like to add something with a bit of color, as this dish is very white.

When we were in Burgundy last month we had a celery root tart that Derek really liked.  It had a buttery crust, and the filling was a mix of gorgonzola, eggs, grated celery root and pear (or maybe apple).  This dish reminded me of that tart a bit, although the cheese was milder.  Celery root goes so wonderfully with fruit, another option would be to add in some pear or apple and use a sharp cheddar cheese.

Rating: B-

Derek: between a B and a B+

Update October 30, 2008:

I tried to make another version of this recipe, using some ideas from this recipe for truffled chantarelle, celery root, and potato gratin. I sliced potatoes and celeriac thinly on my mandoline.  I added a small pat of butter to a casserole pan, and cooked up a big bag of white mushrooms (sliced), adding white wine and truffle salt as well.  I added fresh nutmeg and thyme to the dish, but apparently not enough to taste them in the final casserole.  Once the mushrooms were starting to cook I added in the potatoes and celery root, and about a cup of water.  I let the vegetables simmer while I made the cashew cream sauce given in Heidi’s recipe.  I added about 1 cup of the cashew cream sauce to the vegetables, and grated a bit of gruyere over the top of the casserole.  I baked it at 375 until the cheese was melted and browned on top.

Derek really liked the final dish.  It was rich tasting and homey and he said there was a deep, roasted flavor he couldn’t identify (the truffle salt I think).  The celery root didn’t add a strong celery flavor. I’m not even sure I would have noticed that there was celery root in the dish if I hadn’t been paying close attention. I liked the taste of the cashew sauce (pretty simple, tasting of cashews), but found the texture a bit gritty.  It’s definitely something I’d like to play with in the future.

I enjoyed the casserole as leftovers, but Derek didn’t like it as much as he had the first night.

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Homemade Granola Bars

June 15, 2008 at 6:43 pm (101 cookbooks, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Dessert, Grains, Granola & energy bars, My brain)

I’m trying to use up all the grains, nuts and seeds, and dried fruit in my pantry before I leave Montreal. Faced with a huge jar of rolled oats, I discovered this recipe on 101cookbooks for Big Sur Power Bars. I’ve always wanted to try to make granola bars / power bars of some sort, so despite the fact that I didn’t have all the ingredients, I decided to give it a try. Below is the recipe I made from what I found in my kitchen, based on Heidi Swanson’s recipe, and my memories of making hundreds of batches of granola back in my days as fast food chef at the House of Commons co-op. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pan-fried Brussels Sprouts

January 9, 2008 at 8:39 am (101 cookbooks, Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, Monthly menu plan, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes)

This is my favorite way to cook brussels sprouts. (I still haven’t mastered the art of roasting brussels sprouts in the oven. ) Derek and Alma love them too. Even after all these years if I don’t follow the recipe carefully and just try to wing it I still struggle to get them perfectly cooked. But even if they’re a tad under- or over-cooked we still like them.

Ingredients:

  • 400g of brussels sprouts 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese or chopped nuts – your choice!
  • zest from one lemon (optional)
Instructions:
  1. Wash the brussels sprouts well. Trim the stem ends and cut each sprout in half from stem to top. Toss the sprouts in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
  2. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a 12-inch stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Don’t overheat the skillet, or the outsides of the sprouts will cook too quickly. Place the brussels sprouts in the pan flat side down (single-layer), sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, cover, and cook for roughly 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.
  3. Note from Derek: The original recipe says if the sprouts are not tender at this point, to cover and cook for a few more minutes. Derek says that if you keep cooking them, they will burn. So at this point he usually stirs the sprouts, adds some water to the pan, and cooks for another couple minutes covered. If the pan seems too hot, he may turn down the heat a bit too.
  4. 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.
  5. Remove from the heat. Season with more salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a dusting of grated cheese (or nuts) and lemon zest (if using). Eat immediately.

Note on amounts: The original recipe called for 1 pound of brussels sprouts, but I can’t fit a whole pound of sprouts in a single layer in my 12-inch skillet. Plus, in Germany brussels sprouts often come in 500g bags. I usually fit what I can in a single layer on the skillet and then thinly slice the remaining sprouts and scatter them on top. When I cut the sprouts I often lose the loose leaves. Rather than toss them, I throw them in on top of the sprouts. They’re usually Alma’s favorites part!

Original post from Jan 9, 2008:

I really love brussels sprouts, and my favorite way to eat them is roasted. They taste sweet and caramelized and delicious, nothing at all liked boiled-to-death sprouts. That said, I’ve been quite unsuccessful at roasting them in the oven. They’re more often pale or even putrid green, burned on the outside while still raw on the inside, rather than the perfect vibrant green, succulent, caramelized sprouts I’ve had at restaurants. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong; my only theory is that the restaurants use much more oil than I’ve tried, or perhaps parboil the sprouts first. In any case, I was excited when I saw this recipe for pan-roasted brussels sprouts on 101cookbooks.

I followed her directions exactly, and my 24 small sprouts just barely fit in a single layer in my 12-inch skillet. The final sprouts were just a tad too crisp for my taste, but I think with a bit more practice and experience with my stove I could get them to a more tender state. This is definitely a promising technique that I’ll be trying again. It makes the perfect amount of sprouts for two (assuming both love brussels sprouts as much as Derek and I).

I served the sprouts with amarillo pepper sauce, that tangy, spicy, yellow pepper sauce from Peru that I used to eat at La Feria in Pittsburgh. I found it here in Montreal at a South American store on St. Laurent, and have been enjoying it on sandwiches and as a dip for all kinds of foods. In the past when I’ve made roasted brussels sprouts I’ve served them with a yogurt mustard sauce, like the one I described in my recipe for baked tofu. It goes wonderfully with the sprouts, with the mustard faintly echoing the cruciferous tastes of the brussels sprouts, and the sour/sweet yogurt complementing the bitter/sweet carmelized sprouts.

Rating: B
Derek: B

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Skinny Omelet

August 14, 2007 at 7:33 am (101 cookbooks, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Dark leafy greens, Necessarily nonvegan, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Summer recipes)

I had some already cracked eggs in the fridge from a recipe that went wrong, and could not figure out what to do with them. I ended up deciding to make an omelet, which in the past has always been a disaster. This “skinny omelet” inspired by the skinny omelet in the 101 cookbooks blog, came out surprisingly well. It’s called a skinny omelet not because it’s so calorie-light but because the omelet itself is quite thin, almost like a crepe. I don’t read many blogs, but the pictures are so beautiful in Heidi’s blog that I find myself checking it out every week. This is the first recipe of hers I’ve actually tried (or modified, in this case).

  • a tsp. of oil to grease the pan
  • 2 large eggs + 1 egg white (preferably organic, free-range), beaten
  • a sprinkle of sliced basil leaves, about 1 Tbs?
  • about 1 ounce feta, crumbled
  • two handfuls of arugula/watercress
  • 6 yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • black pepper, freshly ground

Heidi says to “beat well, until the eggs are mostly uniform in color – they seem to run around the pan more evenly when there aren’t huge patches of yolk vs. whites.”

In as 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat pour the egg mixture and swirl the pan so the eggs cover the entire pan. Sprinkle the eggs with feta and basil and black pepper while they set (about 15 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the heat of your pan). Use a spatula to help slide the omelet onto a plate. Sprinkle with the salad greens and sliced tomatoes, and roll the omelet into a tube-shate. Cut in half on a deep diagonal. Serves 1-2.

My Notes:

The original recipe called for pesto, which I had, but forgot to add. It also called for feta, chives, salt, and salad greens. I used a bit of feta, basil instead of the chives, no salt since the feta was quite salty, and a mix of quite wilted (i.e. left them in the fridge too long) arugula and watercress. I also added a few halved yellow cherry tomatoes. I had 6 eggs and 2 egg whites mix together in a bowl, and I used 3/4 cup, so maybe 3 eggs and 1 egg white? As a result, my omelet was not nearly as skinny as hers, and I had to use a spatula to push the omelet to the center of the pan and let the uncooked parts get cooked. I liked all my additions–I could definitely taste the creamy feta, the greens added a sharp, “green” taste (for lack of a better word), and the tomato and basil were delicious together, the tomatoes contributing a lovely sweetness to the dish. It almost tasted like salad for breakfast, but a bit more substantial.

Derek also enjoyed the omelet, and commented “This is what Enrico’s [a brunch place in Pittsburgh] aspires to.”

I classified this as a nice recipe for Spring because it’s a great way to use some of the very delicate early Spring greens like arugula, spinach, or sorrel, along with a little cheese and any fresh herbs you still have growing on your windowsill. As written, with the tomatoes and basil, it makes a nice summer recipe as well.

Rating: B+

Derek: B+

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