Soup Season

Two great soups for the cold nights, both from Simple Recipes: 

White Bean Soup with Ham, Pumpkin hand Chard: If, like me, you have a pie pumpkin in your possession and don’t want to make pie, this soup is a great option. (Or substitute your preferred hard winter squash.) I used a little package of ham chips in place of the ham hock the recipe calls for, as all of the ham hocks at the grocery store were smoked, and this just seemed easier. Pancetta cubes would also work here. I’m not a big fan of chard, so I used kale, and I used the entire small bunch instead of the few leaves called for. And last, I used crushed tomatoes in place of whole, as it turned out I didn’t have any whole. I think I might like that better. You could easily adapt this for the crock pot – Cook’s Illustrated has a technique where you microwave the onion and garlic to soften them for crock pot recipes, and that’d work just fine here. Add the beans and kale 30 minutes or so before you want to eat and that should do the trick. 

Kale and Roasted Vegetable Soup: This shares a similar flavor profile to the soup above, but is vegetarian – the flavor boost comes in from roasting the veggies and pureeing some of them into the stock. As previously discussed, this is really good and you can do some of the prep a couple days ahead. 

Dinner Tonight: Roasted Balsamic Vegetable Pasta

I came across this recipe for Roasted Balsamic Vegetable Pasta while looking for something to do with one of the many eggplants we have from our farmshare. Neither of us is big on eggplant, but this was a hit. The eggplant disappears into the dish. 

Plus, it was super easy to make – a great weeknight dinner, or good to make when you’re cooking more than one meal at a time. This was three servings for us, with nothing on the side. If you want to stretch it to four, you could add more veggies, or serve it with a green salad.
I did make a couple of changes, swapping the mint for basil and the yogurt for ricotta. (And probably twice what was called for, at that.) 

Dinner Tonight: Tilapia Tacos with Mango Salsa

Tonight we enjoyed yet another wonderful meal from Sheet Pan Suppers, by Molly Gilbert, which I cannot recommend highly enough. This recipe for Tilapia Tacos with Mango Salsa (scroll way down) was a great light dinner, very flavorful, and since it uses the broiler it didn’t heat up the kitchen much at all. (I can also vouch for the second recipe on that page, which I’ve made using the same substitution of broccoli crowns instead of broccolini.)

I played with the proportions on this one. Instead of the 6 fillets of tilapia called for, I just got two. I used three eight ball zucchini (they look just like you’d think, so cute!), which is probably slightly more than the recipe calls for. I made about as much sauce as called for, with the exception of using probably half the cilantro (though only because that’s all I could get at the grocery store) and just a splash of olive oil.

You could really do a lot of this ahead of time – the tilapia could marinate in the sauce, and the salsa will hold up just fine. Preheat the broiler while you prep the zucchini and you’re good to go. 

You could also prep the tilapia using this sauce and serve it on its own with whatever veggies you like, or use it as the protein in a taco salad. The sauce would also be great with tofu or chicken.

Dinner Tonight: Tofu & Broccoli Slaw

By the time it was the night for this recipe for Tofu & Broccoli Salad with Peanut Butter Sauce, I admit I was not excited I’d picked it out. I also wasn’t interested in futzing around a lot with the tofu so I didn’t bake it. But I made it, along with some small changes, and it was a great dinner. Super easy and fast to put together, and a nice refreshing and light dinner for summer.

I used a precut bag that was a mix of some kind of non-cabbage slaw, broccoli, and snow peas. I steamed it because I wasn’t super interested in eating it raw. I also marinated the raw tofu in the dressing for a while. When it was time to eat, I divided the veggies between the two of us, and we each got about a third of the tofu and dressing on top of that. This worked well – there was enough dressing to keep the veggies interesting, and it was quite tasty. I skipped the peanuts, edamame, and cilantro as we didn’t have them on hand, so if you have those, you’ll have an even better meal.

Note that the sauce/dressing is too thick to truly drizzle, so you may need to thin it with a bit more water if that’s what you want to do. You’ll also have an easier time getting it to combine if you use an immersion blender.

Dinner Tonight: Third of July

Our farmshare this week included fava beans and squash blossoms, neither of which I’ve cooked with before. Both require some prep. Fava beans have a two-step shelling process, and you need to remove the pistil or stamen from each squash blossom. (Unless your hands are much smaller than mine, or your blossoms much larger than the ones we had, you will have to rip them down one side in order to do this.)

I wanted to use the squash blossoms tonight, because I knew they wouldn’t last much longer. I also wanted to use the fava beans right away. Here’s what I wound up making:

Squash blossoms stuffed with a mixture of goat cheese, basil (also from the farm share), salt, pepper, and olive oil. I drizzled them in olive oil and broiled them in the toaster oven for somewhere between 5-10 minutes – basically enough to warm them through. As is the case with anything stuffed with cheese, they were great. Most of the recipes you will find online involve frying them, which I was not interested in doing. This method was recommended in the comments section of a recipe on The Kitchn. The goat cheese we had on hand was the kind with honey, which is delicious and worked well here.

Pasta with fava beans and sausage, from Smitten Kitchen. I used dried ziti, which held the sauce nicely, and my own canned crushed tomatoes, which I drained slightly so I didn’t have to wait for them to cook down. Quite tasty, though of course this does not really showcase the fava beans.

Recent Recipes

Orzo with Caramelized Fall Vegetables and Ginger – I recently made this with delicata squash instead of sweet potato, and it’s great. Omitting the onions (the only one we had was in bad shape) and mushrooms, I got three lunch-sized portions out of this recipe.

Provencal Vegetable Soup – From Cook’s Illustrated (May/June 2015), this is a French take on minestrone. I tend to just read these and put them aside, so I’m trying to make a point of cooking from them more often. This was a great dinner and the leftovers were an excellent lunch. The way this is put together, you’re working on the next addition as the last thing you added cooks, so it’s a pretty good workflow. It’s a very light and summery soup, perfect for this time of year when the summer squash still abound, but the nights are a little cooler.

Sausage with Grapes and Vinegar – Another delicious dinner from Cook’s Illustrated (July/August 2015). At first glance it probably sounds weird, but the combo of sweet red grapes with italian sausage is great. It’s also very quick and easy to make, and is mostly hands-off. (Fun fact: this dish originated as a meal for vineyard workers in Umbria.)

Spaghetti Squash with Spinach, Feta, Basil & White Beans – I very much enjoy treating spaghetti squash just like spaghetti by dousing it with marinara, but I every so often I want to serve it as a side rather than a main. I recently made this, which was pretty good as a side. However the leftovers for lunch were not great, I was bored by them after a couple of days.

Basic Muesli

I’ve been eating muesli for breakfast for the last several weeks – it’s a great hot-weather alternative to oatmeal, and easier for me to prep in the morning than a smoothie bowl (which I do very much enjoy). But I got tired of the recipe I had been using from Joy the Baker, as the crystallized ginger was just making it way too sweet, and the prep time to chop the dried fruit and ginger was getting to be a drag given that I’m making this about every other week.

Then I came across this recipe from Cookie and Kate, which got me thinking. I didn’t want to add chocolate or deal with the maple syrup and oil, but I realized that at the core, these recipes were just variations using a very similar core proportion of oats, nuts, and dried fruit.

So, I pared down to a very basic, super fast and easy to prepare formula. This has a minimum of chopping and is ready before the oven has preheated.

4 cups rolled oats
3 cups other stuff
salt (between 1/2 and 1 tsp)
a few shakes of ground cinnamon

All that gets dumped in a big bowl, mixed well, and spread on two half sheet pans. It goes into a 350 oven for 20 minutes, stirring and/or rearranging the pans halfway through. I have an airtight canister that fits about 8-9 cups, so when that gets low, I make a new batch.

As far as the “other stuff” goes, lately I’ve been using various combinations of chopped nuts and coconut flakes, based on what I have. These recipes both call for unsweetened, large-flake coconut, which I can never find, so I just use the regular stuff. Slivered almonds are particularly great because there’s no chopping involved, so those are always included. Most recently I did 1 cup each slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, and coconut flakes. Dried fruit would also be good, too – I want to try this with almonds, pecans, and dried cherries – but right now I don’t miss it.

To serve, I measure 1 cup into a bowl, and add enough almond milk to cover. I let it sit for around 30 minutes/however long I’m in the shower, and then top with a sliced banana and a little more milk. (Others like to use yogurt and leave it in the fridge overnight.) I think my way is particularly excellent with the addition of ripe strawberries or blueberries. I don’t find that I need it, but for some sweetness, you could add a little maple syrup, honey, or jam.