Archive for ‘Vegetarian’

March 19, 2012

Quinoa with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms, and Spinach

A friend of mine made a pasta recipe for me a few years ago that I thought would work really well as a quinoa dish due to its earthiness. I’ve made this a handful of times and have been really happy with it. It is great as an entrée or as a side to a rotisserie chicken.

Butternut Squash Quinoa as a Side

Butternut Squash Quinoa as a Side

I meant to make this dish and blog it earlier in the cold, rainy season, but time escaped me. So you Portlanders and cooler climate folks may still want to make it this year but our Southern friends may want to earmark this for next fall. After all, this dish really does scream fall.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup (2/3 stick) butter, divided

3 cups 1/2-inch cubes butternut squash (from 1-lb squash or short-cut with pre-cut bagged squash)

12-16 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, washed and stemmed, caps sliced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1 6-ounce package baby spinach

1+ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

2 c. quinoa (soaked and rinsed or buy pre-rinsed)

3-4 c. chicken broth (you could use water but chicken broth provides a lot more flavor)

Directions:

Cook the quinoa according to the package instructions or vary a bit like I do. Most boxed quinoa calls for a liquid to quinoa ratio of 2:1 but I learned in a cooking class that this is a little too much liquid. (I think it’s more like 1.5:1.) That could account for why my quinoa sometimes came out a little on the soggy side. I’ve experimented a bit and found that I could start with a little less liquid than the package instructs and just add a little more towards the end of the cooking if necessary. Pour chicken broth into pot with quinoa. Bring to a simmer and then reduce to low and cover. Cook for 20-30 minutes, checking on it occasionally to make sure you are not burning the bottom. (You could simmer at a slightly higher heat and cook for a little less time if you are in a hurry). Once liquid has cooked off and quinoa is tender, remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

After starting the quinoa, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Add butternut squash. Brown and cook until almost tender (6-8 minutes).

Browning the Butternut Squash and Mushrooms

Browning the Butternut Squash and Mushrooms

Add shitakes, sage, and another tablespoon butter. Sautee until mushrooms and squash are tender, roughly 8-10 minutes. Add spinach and stir into squash and mushroom mixture until barely wilted (roughly 2 minutes). Mix in 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese and salt/pepper to taste. Then add quinoa to veggie mixture until you are satisfied with the ratio. Taste and salt/pepper more if necessary. Quinoa can be bland if you don’t season well enough.

After serving, sprinkle more grated parmesan cheese on top. With the ladies, I often serve this as an entrée, but it paired really well with a rotisserie chicken (ahem, store bought) when I served it for Mike.

Quinoa as a side for Rotisserie Chicken

The original pasta version can be found on epicurious:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pappardelle-with-Squash-Mushrooms-and-Spinach-240429

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October 9, 2011

Spinach Gnocchi with Alfredo Sauce, Roasted Tomatoes and Crab

In celebration of our 1-year wedding anniversary, we decided to re-create the first joint dinner we made together when we first started dating. We clearly selected the spinach gnocchi for its sentimental value rather than its heart health rating.

This dish is rich and will easily serve 6 hungry gnocchi lovers.

Decadence on a Platter

 

Gnocchi Ingredients

1   lb. package chopped frozen spinach

8   oz. ricotta cheese, drained

1   c. all purpose flour

2   eggs, beaten

2-3 pinches freshly grated nutmeg

Freshly ground salt and pepper

24  cherry tomatoes

16 oz lump crab meat (omit for vegetarian option) – canned is fine since Alfredo sauce will dominate

Parmesan cheese to garnish

Alfredo Sauce Ingredients

*I am trying to recall what I actually included in the Alfredo sauce. This is not exact nor what my cooking that night. If feeling risk averse, look up a recipe online.

5 tbsp butter

5 tbsp flour  – many recipes did not call for flour but I found that creating a good white sauce base with flour (like my mom used to make) worked really well

2 cloves minced garlic

2 c. Half & Half or heavy whipping cream

1-2 c. parmesan cheese (according to how thick you like the sauce)

Salt and white pepper, to taste

Directions

Cook spinach according to instructions. Cool, drain, and squeeze dry. Chop finely. In a bowl, mix together spinach, ricotta, flour, eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper. With generously floured hands (keep re-flouring), form mixture into small sausage shapes and place on cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Patience will dictate how reasonably sized your gnocchi turn out (we had two clearly distinct size patterns).  Refrigerate 1+ hour or until firm.

To roast the cherry tomatoes: Preheat oven to 400F. Oil a roasting pan. Cut tomatoes in half and arrange cut side up in pan. Season with salt and pepper and roast 20 minutes or until blistered.

To make the sauce: Make alfredo sauce while the tomatoes are roasting. Melt butter, mix in minced garlic, and mix in flour until pasty but blended well. I can’t recall for sure, but I think I mixed in a little white wine at this point. Add cream in increments, making sure you blend until smooth before adding more cream. Add parmesan cheese in a couple of batches, melting and blending until smooth. Add white pepper and salt to taste. Keep on low heat while you finish cooking the gnocchi, stirring on occasion to prevent burning. Mix some of the smaller crab pieces in with the sauce (reserve the largest lumps to top the dish).

To cook the gnocchi: Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Drop spinach gnocchi, a few at a time into water. When floating at top, removed with slotted spoon. Drain and keep warm while cooking remainder.

To finish: Serve the gnocchi, add tomatoes, and cover with sauce (you might want to use less enthusiastic quantities of alfredo sauce than we did). Top with the larger pieces of crab. Finally, sprinkle with parmesan cheese. This dish pairs well with a bottle of chardonnay.

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June 21, 2011

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Mike and I ate at Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty a few weeks ago. It’s wood-fired pizza Nirvana on Mississippi. This post was not intended to be a restaurant review (so please excuse my moments of schizophrenia), but the fact that I had been dreaming about copycatting their fungal masterpiece should be review enough. (And you have not lived until you’ve had their homemade salted caramel ice cream). Since Mike cringes at the sight and smell of mushrooms, I decided to indulge myself when he headed out of town on a guys’ fishing trip.

“Monkey See, Monkey Do” is the highly technical kitchen term being portrayed this week. In this particular case, the monkey saw and ate the dish in question but did not see the making of it. This is where imagination and creativity come into play. My mom has always referred to this as “by guess and by gosh.” I looked up the description of the pizza from Lovely’s website, formulated my own ideas about what should go into the pizza, and jotted them down on a list. I was hoping this would serve to keep me on task when I arrived at the uber exciting PSU Farmer’s market. Surprisingly, it did help rein me in. I left with only 4 things that weren’t on my list. And I intended to use the gourmet garlic onions on the pizza. I’d never heard of these spring delights before and couldn’t resist trying them.

So where is the inspirational picture of my farmer’s market booty? Do you even need to ask? Mike was out of town and I was the sole photographer for this gourmet experience. There are many confusing-looking buttons on our fancy camera, but I swear that I didn’t hit the trash can button. The pictures I took of the fresh produce must’ve vanished to the same place that gobbles up socks from the laundry.

Mushroom Truffle Pizza

Pizza Dough:

1 bag Trader Joe’s pizza dough (this is one of those worthwhile shortcuts)

I pulled the bag of dough out of the fridge and read the instructions. “Take pizza dough out of bag, flour, and let rest for 20 minutes.” I’m really not sure why it needed to rest when it hadn’t done anything yet, but I decided to follow instructions for once.

Dough at Rest

While the dough was resting, I got busy with the pizza sauce. I’m pretty sure Lovely’s pizza sauce was just a light coating of olive oil, but I had already decided on an “enhancement.” I simply had to have a mushroom sauce base for my mushroom pizza. Those of you who know my food preferences should not be surprised that I decided to augment the Lovely’s-inspired pizza with even more mushroomy goodness.

Sauce:

4oz Shitake Mushroom, chopped (no stems)

1 Shallot, chopped

1 clove Garlic, minced

1 standard Gobstopper-sized white truffle nugget, finely grated

2 sprigs Thyme

Salt & Pepper

Grapeseed or Olive Oil (gobs to thin it out…roughly ¾- 1 cup)

Sautee the shitakes and shallots in Grapeseed Oil (healthier for sautéing than olive oil) for 4-6 minutes on Med-High heat. Add the Garlic and Thyme and cook for another 1-2 minutes (avoid burning the garlic). Add sautéed mixture to a food processor and add more grapeseed oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Puree. Mix in the grated truffle. Voila, your mushroom sauce base is ready!

Back to the pizza dough. Mike always handled the pizza crust on our pizza nights so I wasn’t fully aware how sporting the task really is. I would just have to wrestle the pizza dough monster myself. I started trying to roll it out but it stretched right back like a rubber band. So I tried picking it up by the top edge and letting gravity stretch it. Stretch, rotate, stretch, rotate. My meager success somehow led to images of spinning, flipping, and twirling overhead. These were visions of pizza Olympics and I had just barely joined the farm league. (I experience similar visions of grandeur when I watch Wimbledon and then head out for a Sunday tennis match at the park).

Things were getting messy. If you want to get a sense of my cooking style, you should really check out this youtube video. Some might liken me to a female version of the Swedish chef (as opposed to Mike’s Iron Chef-like style).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OfsABOGw3c

Flour = White Dirt

I finally managed to stretch 2/3 of the bag of dough (Mike can do the same with ½ a bag) out over one of our specialty pizza pans. We like the aerated pizza pans. They’re no substitute for wood-fired ovens but they help crisp up crusts pretty nicely. I put the crust in the oven for about 5 or so minutes at 450 degrees until it began to brown just a bit. Keep an eye on the crust while it’s cooking. If the crust starts to puff up like a parachute, poke it with a sharp object to deflate it.

Pre-crisped Pizza Crust

Pizza Toppings:

4 oz Morel mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces

1-2 Gourmet garlic onions, chopped

1 sprig Thyme, chopped

1-2 T Grapeseed Oil

1 clove Garlic, minced

0.2 lb Brigante Pecorino Pinna Sheep’s Cheese (a fairly rich and flavorful sheep’s cheese that also melts well)

Black Truffle Oil (Lovely’s used Tartufo cheese instead of my truffle oil and pecorino combo)

2-3 T chopped Italian Parsely

I sautéed the mushrooms and gourmet garlic onions in Grapeseed oil over Med-High heat. I then added the garlic and thyme after 4-6 minutes. I cooked for another 2+ minutes (stop before the garlic burns).

Do-Over Tip: I think it’s important to highlight do-over tips. If I had a do-over, I would double the amount of morel mushrooms and cut them slightly larger, but I am a mushroom fiend so look at the pictures and use your own judgment. Mushrooms always cook down much more than I anticipate and the morel mushroom is an especially tricky little devil. It looks so burly that I couldn’t fathom it shrinking while cooking. I was wrong. The morel cooks down just as much as any other mushroom.

Assemble and Bake:

I spread the mushroom pizza sauce over the crust just like I would a tomato-based sauce. I added most of the cheese, arranged the morel mushroom sauté mixture, and then sprinkled the remaining cheese over top.

Assembled but not Cooked

I then baked for another 8-12 minutes at 450 (until cheese melted and started to brown). I drizzled the truffle oil to taste (I tend to be heavy-handed) and sprinkled a decorative dose of parsley over top. You might want to add a sprig of thyme for flair.

The pizza smelled rich and delicious. (Mike would’ve used a different descriptor). On many occasions I’ve declared fungus to be my friend and this night was no exception. This monkey ended the night with a chick flick, satiated taste buds, and a full belly.

Melted Mushroomy Goodness