***Updated 7/13/10: We taught this class tonight to a great group of women from Cruise Holidays and thought it would be good to revisit these recipes as we are now fully emerged into Farmer’s Market season. Hope you are enjoying it as much as I am!!
I am pretty sure that this is my favorite night of the 6 week cooking series called “The Urban Homestead Experiment”. And, yes, it’s vegetables and grains. This class is dedicated to those who are taking a huge step in their journey away from processed foods and signing up for services, such as, Door to Door Organics or a local CSA (Community Support Agriculture).
The concept is this: Each week you are delivered a box of really good quality produce (or meat, in some cases). Depending on what service you actually sign up for, you may or may not have a say in what you get. We subscribe to Door to Door Organics and each week an email is sent out listing the contents of the next week’s box. You have the opportunity to make up to three substitutions plus you can add additional produce or other grocery items for that week’s delivery. I love it. This is really good stuff and so affordable, too. Did I mention it is delivered to your doorstep? It’s not a lot of local produce, but there is some, especially during the summer months. It is all certified organic. A CSA is even better, because you choose the farm you want to support and it’s all local. There are some limitations with this. If you live in Kansas City then you are not going to be getting things like avocados in your delivery. It’s also not year round and generally you cannot substitute. Both have their pros and cons, but both are also far better than shopping at a chain supermarket.
This type of commitment is scary to a lot of people. Why? Because you may end up with produce that you would not ordinarily buy or know what to do with it. I’m telling you, though, to fear not! This is your opportunity to get creative and “wing it”, not just follow a recipe, using all of the produce in your box. That, my friends, is why this is my favorite week. And if you really can’t commit to a delivery service like this (yet) then head out to some of the amazing farmer’s markets in your area. They are popping up all over Kansas City, which is really exciting.
Now onto the food. We make a lot of food in this class. You’ll notice, though, how certain things appear and then reappear in some other form, so you are not starting from scratch with each meal. We are teaching methods more than recipes where anything can be substituted based on what is in your fridge at the moment. This is how I cook everyday. I roast a bunch of vegetables for dinner, my favorite way of cooking vegetables, and put the rest in the fridge. I might make a big pot of quinoa or rice and a pot of beans and, again, leftovers go in the fridge or divided up into zip lock bags in the freezer. Each component is prepared so that it is flavorful enough to stand on it’s own. That’s not usually what happens, though. Things start mingling together in the form of salads, new entrees, or soups. When I do that I layer flavor upon flavor to create complex dishes that would otherwise take you hours to make from start to finish. Simple methods, like roasting vegetables, cooking grains with tons of flavor from a homemade stock, and making vinaigrette’s are the keys to making these new (or old, depending on how you look at it) ways of shopping for food a success. You will bomb at times. We all do. You may hit a wall and conveniently forget about the kumquats sitting in your fridge, begging you to cook them. The more you practice, though, the more you will truly become a great cook – a “healthy” cook! My family actually complains because I never make the same thing twice. And it’s so true. Don’t ask me for a recipe, because God only knows what actually went into it that night!
So, here are the recipes we made in class this week. Have fun with them and try to think outside your box (ok, bad joke).
Roasted Winter Vegetables
This method can be used for any vegetable or any combination of vegetables. Keep in mind, though, that some vegetables will take longer than others to bake and may need to be baked at different temperatures. Vegetables with more water, such as zucchini, do not take as long to bake and should be baked at 425 to get that good caramelizing. In general, vegetables that are grown within the same season work very well together in terms of temperature and cooking time. The mix below, which are all winter root vegetables, bakes for the same amount of time, same temperature, and should be cut the same size. A summer mix with zucchini, yellow squash, red bell peppers, red onions, and cherry tomatoes will all bake at 425 degrees for around 25 – 30 minutes. If there is any question, set the temperature to 400 to start out with and then raise after 25 minutes if the vegetables are not caramelizing. It is very important to spread the vegetables out into a single layer so that every single piece is touching the pan. If you overcrowd the pan, they will steam instead of roast.
1 butternut squash
2 sweet potatoes
3 medium carrots
3 medium parsnips
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss all ingredients together in large bowl and spread out onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 35 – 40 minutes. Carefully stir the vegetables half way through, if necessary.
- Summer: Zucchini, yellow squash, red onion, cherry tomatoes, baby bella mushrooms (425 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes)
- Spring: Asparagus, onion, garlic (425 degrees for 25 minutes)
- Carrots and brussel sprouts – try them together even if you think you hate brussel sprouts! (400 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes)
- Fennel – by itself or with any other vegetable (400 for 35 – 40 minutes)
Beets have a tendency to dry out in the oven, so roasting them unpeeled in a foil pack is the ideal method.
4-5 beets, cleaned and unpeeled
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut greens from beets right at the root (leave enough stem so the flesh of the beet is not exposed). Lay one sheet of aluminum foil onto a baking sheet. Toss beets, oil, salt and pepper and rub the oil into the beets to ensure they are completely covered. Place beets onto the foil. Top with another sheet of foil and fold over all edges to make a packet. Bake for 30 minutes or until you can stick a knife through the beets. Allow the beets to cool slightly and remove skin. Use immediately or refrigerate whole.
The method to make a vinaigrette is one part vinegar or acid to three parts oil plus flavorings (in addition to salt and pepper). In my basic recipe, I use champagne vinegar and olive oil, and flavor it with shallots, Dijon mustard, and honey. Use this formula to make any type of vinaigrette you can imagine. Play around with the 3-1 ratio if you prefer more or less oil, as well as, the sweetener to balance out the vinegar. This can also be used as a marinade.
1 small shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
In a small, wide mouth mason jar add shallot, mustard, honey, and vinegar. Using a hand-held immersion blender, blend the ingredients until slightly pureed. Slowly pour in the olive oil as the blender is running on low speed until the mixture emulsifies. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust sweetener/salt/pepper, as required. This will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week. Alternatively, this can be made in a blender, food processor, or by hand with a whisk.
- Add any herbs. Use fresh herbs if you are using immediately and dried if you will be storing it for later use.
- Use garlic instead of shallot. Or red onion, leek, scallions.
- Use fresh ginger instead of shallot and replace some of the olive oil with sesame seed oil for an asian flavor
- Play with vinegars: Balsamic, Champagne, Red or White Wine Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar are all good
- Replace some or all of the vinegar with a citrus juice (lemon, orange, lime).
- Use pure maple syrup in place of honey
Note: Mark Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything contains an awesome section on vinaigrette’s. He provides a ton of different variations based on the oil, vinegar/acid, and flavoring method, all of which are so easy and so good.
Umeboshi Broccoli Salad
This is a twist on the traditional broccoli salad made with tons of mayonnaise and bacon. The unexpected saltiness of the Umeboshi Cucumber Dressing balances perfectly with the tart and sweet dried cranberries. This dish happens to hit all five tastes of the tongue (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami) leaving you completely satisfied.
1 head of broccoli, chopped into small florets
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup freshly minced onion
1/2 cup or more Umeboshi Cucumber dressing (recipe below)
Freshly ground pepper
Roast sunflower seeds in a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes. Be careful not to burn. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Add more dressing, as needed.
Note: If you buy sunflower seeds already roasted, be sure to get unsalted. The Umeboshi Cucumber dressing is inherently salty, so adding salty sunflower seeds may be too much.
Umeboshi Cucumber Dressing
Umeboshi plums promote alkalinity in the body, aid in digestion, and have antibiotic properties. Read more here. As far as their taste, they are an intense combination of salty, sour, and sweet. Made with a whole, fresh cucumber, this dressing will wake up your taste buds for sure!
2 tablespoons Umeboshi Paste
1 small cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons olive oil
Place all ingredients in a blender puree. Add a small amount of water, if needed, to get it started.
Recipe courtesty of http://www.elanaspantry.com/
Using chicken stock, preferably homemade, in place of water adds all kinds of flavor to an otherwise boring side dish. Add a tiny bit of butter and fresh herbs and it’s even better. This same method can be used to cook all grains. Consider even mixing several kinds of grains for varying textures and nutritional profiles. Here is a great example of that on http://www.101coookbooks.com/ .
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper
Rinse quinoa in a fine meshed strainer. This is a very important step, as quinoa has a natual bitter coating which needs to be rinsed off. Most boxed varieties are pre-rinsed, but it doesn’t hurt to rinse it again. Heat grapeseed oil in a 2 quart stockpot over medium. Add the quinoa and toast lightly until you can begin to smell a nutty flavor. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 12-15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. You can visually tell when the quinoa is finished, because the germ will separate from the seed and appear circular with a dot in the middle. Remove from heat and let it sit, covered for 3-5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and add the butter, scallions, parsley, salt and pepper.
Tonya’s Brown Rice
This is the best brown rice you will ever have! If you do not have a pressure cooker you can make it in a regular stock pot, just adjust the cooking time. Follow the directions up until the boiling. You want to bring it to a boil, but cover and reduce the heat immediately instead of after 10 minutes. It will take a little longer to cook, but will taste just as delicious. The oven method is great, too. Very hands off. That recipe can be found here (scroll down to the bottom).
2 cups short grain brown rice
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons coconut oil
4 cardamom pods
2 2/3 cups homemade chicken stock
In a pressure cooker heat the oil and butter. Open cardamom pods and add seeds to the oil. Stir rice in butter and oil until the rice is coated. Add stock and bring to a boil. Boil with lid off for 10 min then lock the lid into place and bring to pressure. Reduce heat and place a flame deflector under the pot. Cook for 30 min with the heat just high enough to hold the pressure. Remove from heat and let the pressure release naturally.
2 C toasted cashews
1 C water
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoons soy sauce ( we used Oshawa’s)
2 tablespoons Agave
2 tablespoons plus 1 tsp cider vinegar ( we used Bragg’s)
1/2 teaspoons salt
cayenne, to taste
Mix everything in a food processor or high speed blender until creamy. Store in a container in the fridge. Serve on any grain, veggie or meat that sounds appealing. Heat gently before serving.
Stuffed Portobella Mushrooms
This is one of those ideas where you can literally take any leftovers, stuff it in a mushroom, top it with cheese and call it good. Here I have used “leftover” quinoa and beans and added flavorings that I typically have in my fridge. Use any grain or pasta, meat (or not), vegetables, tomato sauce, pesto, you get the idea. Goat cheese would pair nicely with the mushrooms, as well as, parmesan, feta, or fontina. Serve with a salad on the side for a nice, light dinner.
4 portobella mushrooms, stemmed and dark gills removed
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked white beans
1 sprig rosemary, finely minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup stock
1/3 cup toasted pinenuts
1/2 cup grated manchego cheese
1/4 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub each mushroom with oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes. While the mushrooms are baking, combine quinoa, beans, rosemary, lemon zest, stock, and pinenuts. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove mushrooms from oven and stuff each with the quinoa mixture. Top with cheese, breadcrumbs, and a little more salt and pepper. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of oil onto the breadcrumbs. Return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.