Archive for March, 2010


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Our winter harvest has been a big one this year – typically we’ll pull some scrawny beets and carrots, clip a couple of chard stems and be done with it.  I never expect the winter harvest to give us much produce, which is why we supplement with a CSA box.  With the extra San Diego rain this year, we’ve got Pacific-Northwest-sized veggies coming out of the ground, so it’s been a little bit of a battle to stay ahead of the produce!

Luckily, God invented the internet.  I’ve been scouring CSA websites that are conveniently organized by vegetable for ideas.  A few of my faves:

Live Earth
Anchor Run


I yanked 1/3 of the beet harvest and realized that I had a serious issue on my hands – big beets, and lots of ’em!

I found a recipe that could be easily adapted to what was already in my cupboard, and got to work.

Roasted Beets with Quinoa, Caramelized Onions and Sausage

3-4 large beets, including their greens
1 large onion, diced
olive oil and butter
1c quinoa
balsamic vinegar
sausage (I used half of  a kielbasa, about 1 cup sliced into 1″ slices)

Separate the beets from their greens and make sure they’re well washed.  Roast the beets, wrapped in foil at 400° for about 1 hour or until a knife enters them easily.  While they’re roasting, get to cookin’ on the other pieces.

Add enough olive oil and butter (in equal-ish parts) to a medium pan to coat.  Put on medium heat and toss, then cook them down to their most lovely yellow caramelized state.  Stir occasionally while they cook – it should take about 45 minutes until you start drooling.

Rinse the quinoa and put it in 1-1/2c salted cold water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.  Let it cook, covered, for about 30 minutes (the liquid should all disappear), then fluff with a fork.  Set aside.

You can return your attention to the onions now – at the end of their cooking time, add a good splash of balsamic vinegar (I had some pomegranate balsamic, which was heavenly!).  This will reduce and glaze the onions, adding a little extra sweetness and bite at the same time. Add the sliced sausage and stir to combine.

Separate your beet greens from their stems and chop both into bite-sized pieces, keeping them separate.  The stems will take a couple of extra minutes, so add them to the onions first.  Add the beet greens and cover for a minute or two, allowing them to steam into the dish.  Remove from heat, salt and pepper to taste.

Peel and chop the roasted beets and, depending on your red-food-squeamish-factor, you can either stir the whole mess together (greens, beets and quinoa), or serve them buffet style.

This dish was hearty and comforting without being heavy, and was even better the next day for lunch.  Next time I’ll try tossing some red pepper flakes in the mix as a contrast to the sweetness of the onions and beets.

Now to tackle all this lettuce…

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If only I could live like Norman, who’s found her new favorite spot – whenever I step away from the heating pad, she’s commandeered it as her own.  Looking at me like “bitch, please – this is mine now”…

Instead, I’ve been left looking for inspiration on these strangely cold and windy San Diego days.  Since I’d been banished from the couch, I picked up the Zuni Cafe cookbook and this recipe struck me – pasta cooked like risotto then baked for a crunchy top and creamy, noodley middle?  Sounds like perfect comfort food.  I deem it Risasta.  Or maybe it’s pastoto.  Anyway, it’s really called fideus, and it’s delicious.  It’s a bit of a process, so reserve a Saturday afternoon or plan to complete the dish in stages.

Zuni Fideus with Wild Mushrooms and Peas

Onion base:
3c finely diced yellow onions
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4c chopped drained canned tomato or 1/2c chopped peeled, ripe tomato
A few garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 small dried chiles, broken in half (I had a couple that I’d dried from last summer’s harvest, and wish I’d stuck with just one – they packed quite a punch!  Next time I’ll start slow and adjust from there)
a pinch of saffron threads

Toasted noodles:

10 oz cappellini, broken into 1/2″ pieces (initial attempts at cutting with a knife were disastrous, and breaking them by hand was no picnic either – let me know if you come up with a sneaky way to do this pleasantly)
2 tsp olive oil

For finishing the dish:
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil, divided (you may need less, see below)
4-6 oz chanterelle, porcini or morel mushrooms, cleaned and sliced about 1/4″ thick
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6c chicken stock
1c shucked sweet english peas or shucked sugar snap peas (I used frozen as our pea harvest just never quite produced this year)
handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Onion base:
The base is a true winner in this dish – I had to stop myself from spooning it directly onto toast and devouring right away.  Next time – double batch.

Place the onions and olive oil in a 2 qt saucepan, set over medium-high heat and stir to combine.  Let the onions on the bottom color, then stir again and reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the onions have reduced by about half and are generally golden, about 15 minutes. Salt to taste.

Reduce heat to low, stir in tomato, garlic, chili and saffron and cook, stirring occasionally, for another hour or so on the lowest heat: when the mixture is ready, it will be suave and jam-like with no trace of acidity.  If it starts to dry out or look oily around the edges, add a few drops of water or stock to re-emulsify the mixture.  You should get about 2 cups (onion jam will keep 1 week or so, covered and refrigerated).

Toasting the noodles:
Preheat oven to 325. Toss noodles in the olive oil just to coat, then spread evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Toast until the color of cornflakes, about 20 minute; stir the noodles or rotate the pan if not browning evenly.  Set aside.  If you plan to finish the fideus in the oven  (which you should because it’s awesome), raise the heat to 475.

Finishing the dish:
Warm about half of the olive oil in a 3 qt saute pan over med heat.  Add the mushrooms, salt them and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender but only slightly golden on the edges, 3-8 minutes, depending on variety and moisture content.  Stir in the garlic.  Taste a mushroom – it should be delicious already; if at all bland add a little more salt or garlic, or cook little longer to concentrate the flavor.
Add the onion base, toasted noodles, and about 1-1/2c of the stock.  Let the risasta making begin.  Bring to a simmer and stir as the noodles absorb this first dose of stock, about 2 minutes. Add the peas and another 1-1/2c stock and bring to a simmer. Stir until the stock is absorbed, another 3 minutes or so, then add another 1-1/2c stock.  Continue to cook, just simmering, until this dose is absorbed, another few minutes.  Check a noodle for doneness – it should be chewy. Add the parsley, the final 1-1/2c stock and the remaining olive oil (I found my dish had enough oil at this point – proceed as you wish).  Taste for salt.

Stir and cook the fideus over slightly higher heat until the stock is fully absorbed and the noodles are tender through or, to finish the dish in the oven, slide the juicy noodles into a shallow flameproof 3pt baking dish (my pan was ovenproof, so I just popped it right in), bring to a simmer, and place the pan in the top half of the oven.  Bake uncovered until the stock is completely absorbed, about 10 min. Apparently this last step is not following in fideus tradition, but pshaw – it makes for a great texture contrast.  Love this last statement in the recipe: “Though purists may scoff, I like the variety and contrast of the al dente surface noodles, which are especially caramelized and crisp at the edges of the pan, with the remainder underneath, cooked to tender, slippery succulence”.  That’s definitely the risasta definition in my upcoming made-up-words dictionary: tender, slippery succulence.

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