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Archive for the ‘dinner’ Category

As my sister said on her way through the security line at the airport: “I’m not eating again today.  Well, not until I get home”.  As is tradition, we spent the majority of three days being uncomfortably full, and now we’re hoping to take a break from overeating for a few days.   We had a spectacular experience though, and took advantage of our family’s diversity by having Persian cuisine one night, Norwegian the next, and good ol’ American to finish it off.  Pictures to come.

In case you’re not sick of feasting yet, have I got a beautiful meal for you.  This isn’t one of those recipes where your guests will think you’ve spent all day cooking, but in fact it’s just been whipped up last minute.  You’ll actually be putting in some labor time on this one, but it’s well worth it for the right occasion.  Ours was a lovely dinner with lovely friends before we all dispersed for Christmas.  I’d recommend doing it in stages – make the sauce and roast the squash the day before, and you’ll be golden.  I’m not usually too excited by white sauces, but the combination of the sweet, caramelized squash with this rich decadent sauce is too much to pass up.

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Roasted Butternut Squash, Rosemary and Garlic Lasagna
adapted from Cooking Light

8 1/4 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (3 pounds or so.  I had a bigger squash, so just added an extra layer to the lasagna to use it up)
 Cooking spray
4 cups fat-free milk, divided
2 Tbsp dried rosemary
1/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) package no-boil precooked lasagna noodles
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
1/2 cup whipping cream

Arrange butternut squash in a single layer in a large roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Coat squash with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 25 minutes or until squash is just tender, stirring once. Set aside.

Lower oven temperature to 350°.

Combine 3 1/2 cups milk and rosemary in a medium saucepan and simmer on medium heat 5 minutes or until mixture begins to boil. Let stand 10 minutes. Strain milk through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard rosemary.

Lightly spoon all-purpose flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and remaining 1/2 cup milk, stirring flour mixture with a whisk until well blended to form a slurry.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute or until tender, stirring constantly. Stir in steeped milk, and increase heat to medium-high. Gradually add slurry to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Combine milk mixture and squash, tossing gently.

Spread about 1 1/2 cups squash mixture into the bottom of an 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over squash mixture; top with 2 cups squash mixture and 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat layers once or twice with 3 noodles, 2 cups of squash, and 1/4 cup of cheese. Top with 3 noodles.

Just before your guests are due to arrive, beat whipping cream and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt with mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Spread the whipping cream mixture over noodles; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until golden. Let stand 10 minutes.

I’ve got another week off from work (eat that, suckas!), so am planning to tend to the winter garden (artichokes are so happy right now, but the beets, chard and turnips have been a little neglected), clean the house, and generally nest, getting ready to start 2008 on the right foot.

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Too Cold

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a fan of the cold. My mom still talks about finding me in the middle of a hot Bay Area summer, sitting on the couch reading with a huge blanket covering me up. Even now, in the midst of a (granted, mild) winter in San Diego, I have on my bed: flannel sheets and a regular comforter topped with THREE down comforters. Sure makes it tough to get up in the morning.

This love of warmth translates to food, too – I’ve never been too fond of salads, as I prefer my greens steamy and soft – a tender biteful of garlicky greens over a crunchy crisp romaine for me, thanks. But maybe I’m coming around! I have a massage client with an orchard, and she tips me in fresh, straight-from-the-tree fruit. It’s heavenly, and this month I’m swimming in Fuyu persimmon and mandarin oranges, thanks to her bounty. I saw this salad in Cooking Light, and had to face my salad fears to try it. I’m glad I did – it’s peppery, sweet and spicy and showcases the winter flavors I love.  I subbed out the hazelnuts for candied walnuts and the persimmon for mandarin oranges, and it translated well:

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 2)
2 cups thinly sliced peeled ripe Fuyu persimmon (about 2), or the same amount fresh mandarin orange sections
1 (5-ounce) package bagged prewashed arugula
a generous handful toasted or candied nuts

Combine the first four ingredients in a small bowl and stir with a whisk. Throw the fennel, fruit and arugula in a big bowl, toss with dressing and top with nuts. Pair with something warm, for god’s sake!

Hope everyone had a holly jolly one!

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Senate Bean Soup

According to custom, bean soup must be on the menu every day in the Senate dining areas. I came across the famous recipe when deciding what to do with my lovely Rancho Gordo Yellow Eye beans, and couldn’t resist it. How much easier does it get, really? Four basic ingredients that can be set and forgotten about. Because that’s what politicians love, isn’t it? Basic things with no frills or confusion, that don’t cost a lot of money… hmm.

I so highly recommend this soup. The ingredients, or rather – the lack thereof – gave me pause, but I was so pleasantly surprised by the taste – no description or picture does it justice. The beans are super tender and buttery and perfectly exhibited in this simple soup. It’s super.  And costs about $5.00.  You should make it today.

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The Famous Senate Restaurant Bean Soup Recipe

2 pounds dried navy beans
four quarts hot water
1 1/2 pounds smoked ham hocks
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the navy beans and run hot water through them until they are slightly whitened. Place beans into pot with hot water. Add ham hocks and simmer approximately three hours in a covered pot, stirring occasionally. Remove ham hocks and set aside to cool. Dice meat and return to soup. Lightly brown the onion in butter. Add to soup. Before serving, bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper. Serves 8.

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The wildfires have been raging all week here in San Diego – so many people have been evacuated, and now over 1500 homes have been destroyed.  It’s totally surreal, because even though the fires are happening all around, you’d hardly know it from where I live.  There’s the tell-tale haze in the air, and a faint smoky smell, but we’ve been spared much of the exposure here in Ocean Beach.  Even so, they keep saying that the air quality is really bad, so we’re encouraged to stay indoors and limit activity.  To avoid becoming too news-laden and freaked out, I took on a few kitchen projects.  My camera is still traveling, so no pictures this week.  You’ll have to trust me – this is good stuff.  It’s a little time consuming, so I’d save it for a lazy Sunday.  Or a hazy Wednesday, if you’re in SD.

Three Sisters Baked Beans (adapted from Vegetarian Times)

1 cup dried beans (I used Vaquero)
1 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 canned chipotle peppers
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups diced onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano (thanks, Mom!) 
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups peeled, diced butternut squash
15-oz. can hominy, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1 Tbs. cider vinegar
4 cups winter greens (such as collards, kale, chard)

Rinse, soak and cook the beans.  Reserve the cooking liquid and add enough water to make 4 cups. 

In a large saucepan, combine 3 cups liquid, sun-dried tomatoes, chipotles and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.  Remove and discard the cinnamon stick, and then transfer tomato-chipotle mixture to food processor and process until smooth; set aside.

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, oregano and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened, about 4 minutes. Add squash and cook, stirring often, 2 minutes. Stir in beans, hominy, molasses, tomato-chipotle puree and remaining 1 cup liquid. Cover, transfer to oven and bake 40 minutes.

Remove bean mixture from oven and stir in vinegar. Serve hot.

I ate the dish at this point and loved it.  On the reheat, though, I added some greens and it came to a whole new level – I’d recommend their addition – I bet even stirring them in after baking the beans would wilt them enough.  Yum.  Hearty and comforting, and perfect for eating in front of the tv, watching for any good news that might appear.

An addition: I received this attachment of homeopatic remedies to fire-related symptoms in an email from my massage school. Hopefully it will come in handy for some.

For acute anxiety, fear, shock or grief:
Rescue remedy drops or spray: Take under the tongue or pour into a water bottle and sip throughout the day. See dosage information on the bottle.
Rescue remedy be used together alone or together with any of the following homeopathic remedies:
Aconite 30c/200c: for any illness that arises from fright
Ignatia 30c/200c: for acute grief or loss.
Pulsatilla: for anxiety in children (or adults) who are weepy, clingy and want to be held.
Calcarea carbonica: for undue fear of calamities or natural disasters. They cannot sleep due to the fear of losing their homes or loved ones.
Phosphorous: for anxiety in open, excitable types who want to be able to help everyone and get ill seeing the suffering of others.
Natrum Muriaticum: These types are equally as sensitive to the suffering of others, especially if they see any injustice. They are more serious or closed than Phosphorous types. This is also useful for grief, especially long-standing or silent grief, where they are not able to cry, or hide their tears behind a brave face.

For sore throats from exposure to smoke:
Echinacea and goldenseal throat spray: take as directed on the bottle
Home-made ginger tea: Cut up fresh ginger root and add to water. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer. Drink throughout the day. (This will also help with mucus)
Zinc or Propolis throat lozenges

Eye irritation from smoke:
Try to use goggles when outside to protect your eyes. Use saline solution to rinse your eyes. If redness continues use Euphrasia eye drops or take homeopathic Euphrasia orally. For tearing, burning eyes that feel like you’ve been peeling onions, use Allium cepa (Especially if you also have a watery, burning nasal discharge)

General advice: Smoke exposure increases your need for Vitamin C, thus I recommend increasing your intake of Vitamin C during this time. Grapefruit seed extract can help your immune system deal with the air pollution.

Information provided by Tammara Guterman, homeopathic practitioner.

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I was so proud.  Two beautiful butternut squash (squashes?) greeted me from the garden, and the blooms further down the vine gave the promise of more to come.  And then I pruned.  I was getting so ready for my winter veggies to get going, so last weekend I started clearing.  I pulled out the saddest looking tomato plants, caught up on my weeding, then pulled out the shears.  I was so pleased with my progress, and I noticed that one of the vines of the butternut squash could be taken out (and would then encourage quicker growth of the rest of the plant), so I snipped it.  And it was the wrong vine.  I killed any chance of more squash this season.  Tragic. 

At least I’ve made the most of the two successes – the first I simply roasted with a little olive oil until the skin gave when I pressed it with my finger.  I had plans for this squash, but they flew out the window and I ended up eating the whole thing with a spoon.  I even ate most of the skin, it was so light and papery.  Hopefully that won’t kill me.

The second squash received a more elegant treatment – this stew is adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone… 

Thai Tofu and Winter Squash Stew

1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp roasted peanut oil, plus extra for tofu
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (leave some seeds in if you like to sweat)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp light brown sugar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 15oz can coconut milk
1 ½ lbs butternut squash, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
Salt
1 10-oz package firm silken tofu, cut into ½ inch cubes and fried in peanut oil (you can use it raw if you’re so inclined, but I like a little extra hard texture in this dish)
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup raw peanuts
¼ cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil in wide soup pot. Add onion and cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently until partially softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeno and ginger, cook 1 minute more, then add curry, sugar and soy.  Reduce heat to medium, scrape the pan, and cook for a few minutes more.  Add 3 cups water, coconut milk, squash and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Add the tofu to the stew once the squash is almost tender, then simmer till done. Taste for salt and add the lime juice.

The recipe mentions that you can garnish this dish with chopped fried peanuts and cilantro, but I was out of both of those.  It was just as delicious without them.

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Last time I made this dish, I had some shiitake mushrooms and bok choy, and I threw them in during the saute.  This is one of those easily adaptable meals that can change with the contents of your fridge.  Enjoy!

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Leftovers for Days

Luckily, I’d gotten through most of my dinner feast preparation before the finger massacre, so I’m left with some lovely homemade leftovers to tide me over until I’m feeling up to cutting anything again.

First on the menu was baked beans (a new batch of Rancho Gordo beans just needed to be cooked!), and I found a great looking recipe in this month’s Cooking Light – it made 10 servings, so I cut it in half.  Unless you’ve got a huge crowd coming over, you’ll be fine with the half.

Sweet and Spicy Baked Beans

1 cup dry beans (the recipe asks for navy, but I used Flor de Junio beans)
4 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 cup light molasses
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 minced jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper 
water
1 teaspoon salt

Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; cover and let stand 8 hours or overnight. Drain beans, reserving the liquid.  Add water to the liquid to make 4 cups.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat 5 minutes or just until crisp.  Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 5 minutes or until onion begins to brown, stirring often. Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring often. Add molasses, sugar, jalapeño, mustard, and red pepper; stir to combine. Stir in beans and the 4 cups of reserved bean liquid and water. Increase heat to medium-high; bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat. Cover and bake at 350° for 3 hours. Stir in remaining 1 cup water. Cover and bake an additional 1 hour or until beans are tender, but not falling apart, and liquid is almost absorbed. Remove from oven; stir in salt.

No pictures of this one to the aforementioned massacre.  You’ll just have to trust me on this one – it’s good!

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Dreaming of Fall

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I suppose it’s technically fall, but it still feels like summer.  The weekend parking is still non-existent, the window stays open when we sleep, and I’m feeling the pressure to be outside, to make the most of the sunny weather.

But all I really want to do is to put on a warm fuzzy sweatshirt and slippers, curl up under a blanket with my kitty and sip on hot cocoa.  I got really excited this weekend when it seemed like the weather was cooling off, so I soaked some Rancho Gordo beans (thanks, Mom!) and got to cooking.  The chili is one of my experimental mishmash dishes, so it’s easily adaptable to whatever ingredients you have lying around.  I think it’s the first chili I’ve ever made – aww.  The cornbread scones are from Cooking Light, and I’ll post about them next.

Carrie’s First Chili

For the beans:
1 1/2 cups dry beans (I used Rancho Gordo’s Oro de Tigre beans)
enough water to cover them by at least an inch

about 1 cup mirepoix (carrot, celery and onion, diced)

I’ve typically been a canned beans kind of a girl, but Rancho Gordo has brought me around.  Their dry heirloom beans are delicious and really easy to make.  I’ve been following their method for cooking the beans – you can find it here.

1 lb. steak, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 Tbsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
2-3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 small can tomato paste
1 bottle dark beer
cooked beans and any extra cooking liquid from above
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat some olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Brown the steak on all sides, about 3 minutes.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft.  Add the rest of the ingredients, cover and simmer about 30 minutes or until the smell is too tempting.

You’ve been warned: this stuff turned out SPICY.  It wasn’t my fault, I swear – a new era has arrived in our house, because when Chris tasted the first round, he claimed for the first time that a dish needed more spice.  I happily obliged by dropping in the cayenne pepper – you may decide to leave it out.  If yours turns out a bit too spicy, just do what we did and whip up a big batch of rice.

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