Savory

Kale Peanut Salad

Nom nom, Asian flavors. Regardless of what I’m cooking for dinner, I’m guilty of repeat ingredients: soy, ginger, sesame, curry, fish sauce, sriracha…the list goes on. I don’t consider it a problem that I’m not much of a diverse home cook anymore. I’ve just found the flavors that are going to make me happy for another 5+ years. Or longer. Who knows?

I remember this time, in the fall of 2011, when I woke up one morning and instantly realized, “I like sushi now!” No joke. Up until that very moment, I despised sushi – and not because it’s raw fish, but because the flavor of nori repulsed me. I learned rather quickly that sushi as sushi actually has little to do nori –  but at that point in time, I was ready to brave the threatening maki roll. That morning, I knew I was going to become a sushi lover. And that I did. Isn’t it strange how our tastebuds change?

So, given this detail, I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time before my Asian flavor craze fizzles out and is replaced by some other flavor craze. But until then, I surely will eat Kale Peanut Salad every day.

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Kale Peanut Salad
makes 3-4 medium-sized servings

one bunch of kale; rinsed, destemmed, dried, and torn into pieces
3 T peanut butter (use whatever! I make mine my with Trader Joe’s all natural crunchy)
2 – 3 T seasoned rice vinegar (I usually just splash it in, so this is an estimate; start with 2 T, then add more if you want it!)
2 T honey
1 T soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch ginger root, peeled and minced
1 t or more srircha
1/2 t sesame oil
2 t vegetable oil
a heavy pinch of salt
1/3 C roasted, unsalted peanuts

Prepare kale and set aside in a very large bowl.

In a food processor, combine all ingredients with the exception of the kale and peanuts. Blend well and taste. If it’s too sweet, add a little bit more soy. If it’s too tangy, add a little bit more honey. If it’s not spicy enough, add more sriracha. If it’s too salty, I don’t know what to tell you. Add lime juice?

Roughly chop the peanuts so you end up with some small pieces and some larger ones.

Pour every last drop of the dressing over the kale and add peanuts. Toss with tongs to combine.

I keep this in the fridge and eat off of it for 2-3 days. The dressing helps to tenderize the kale over time.

Now, how’s that for a little Asian persuasion?

Roasted Eggplant Caramelized Onion Spinach Spread

Roasted Eggplant Caramelized Onion Spinach Spread
makes a little over 2 cups

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1 large eggplant
1 medium sweet onion
2 C packed fresh spinach
1 clove garlic
juice from half a lemon
olive oil
butter
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the ends of the eggplant, then cut in half and place on a baking sheet. Generously coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast eggplant in oven for 45 minutes. Let cool for half an hour.

In a large saute pan, warm 1 T olive oil and 1 T butter over medium-low heat. Prepare onion by removing skins and slicing thin rounds. Add to warm olive oil/butter and slowly cook until caramelized, about 30 minutes.

Once eggplant is cool enough, remove skins and discard. Add the flesh to a food processor, along with caramelized onion, spinach, garlic, and lemon juice. Blend! Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Blend some more! Keeps for awhile in the fridge.

Serve however you want, but I like to cover really good bread in olive oil, salt, and pepper and toast it under my broiler. Heap this spread right on top of the warm bread, and it’s perfect.

So easy. So healthy. So tasty.

Moroccan Lamb Stew

I never cooked lamb before cooking this stew.

I feel lucky to have become friendly with a colleague who raises her own animals. When cooperative, her chickens provide me with eggs, and recently, I purchased some lamb. My mom, a wonderful woman and great ‘meat and potatoes’ home cook, does not like lamb, and I really allowed her get into my head about it. I know I like lamb; I’ve had it before. However, after listening to Mom talk about the horrible characteristics of lamb, I began to feel pretty shut down about my purchase. I had to remind myself that my mom doesn’t like goat cheese, either…a sure sign (at least in my eyes) that I made a safe decision in purchasing the lamb.

So, I made this stew. It was 100% better than I expected, probably because I was expecting scary things from the lamb. I was very wrong to expect such scary things. The lamb was so tender, and it well-acquired the various flavors of the stew. My colleague asked me for the recipe, so here it is.

Moroccan Lamb Stew (in a slow cooker)
serves 6 or so

1 lb lamb (I’m tempted to just leave this as is, because it’s funny, but I suppose I should specify – I used 1 lb of stew cut lamb; you could use a larger piece and slow braise it, or you could cut down a larger piece into stew pieces; more meat would not hurt this recipe), seasoned with salt and pepper prior to cooking
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 t minced ginger root
1 T cumin
2 t coriander
1 t fennel seeds
1/2 t cinnamon
salt & pepper!
2 C chicken broth
1 19oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 C roughly chopped dried apricots
1/2 C raisins
1 t lemon zest
3 heaping handfuls of kale, destemmed and chopped

In a large saute pan, heat 2 T of your preferred oil over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb on all sides until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Place into the bowl insert of a slow cooker. Use the same sauté pan to cook your onion and bell pepper. After 4-5 minutes, add the garlic and ginger root and let it all go for 3 more minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, cinnamon, and salt & pepper. Combine well and cook for an additional few minutes. When the mixture is looking soft and smelling beautiful, add to meat.

Turn on slow cooker to high. To the cooker, add broth, chickpeas, apricots, raisins, and lemon zest. Stir to combine. Top the stew with the kale, cover, and let it go. It will be ready in 4 hours. Enjoy.

Easy peasy.

Ravioli

I think homemade pasta is a very special thing. It is absolutely delicious and noticeably more fantastic than the stuff you buy in a box, and because the process of making pasta is tedious and time consuming, making it for someone else truly sends a “you are loved” message. Below is the recipe for ravioli that I made for my family this past holiday.

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Sausage and Cheese Ravioli / Spinach and Cheese Ravioli
makes over 100 ravioli – you may want to cut the recipe in half or quarters, unless you’re really hungry!

Cheese

32 oz whole milk ricotta
8 oz shredded mozzarella
1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 t ground pepper
pinch of cayenne, or more – but don’t leave it out!

Spinach
10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained well

Sausage
8 oz (or half of a 16oz package) Jimmy Dean hot sausage, cooked

To make the fillings, I first combined all ingredients to make the cheese filling, constantly tasting to ensure that seasoning was just right. I recommend that you do the same. This recipe will make over two pounds of filling, or ping. I separated the ping into two bowls, each with one pound of filling, and added spinach to one bowl and sausage to the other. I left the remaining ping uncontaminated in order to make simple cheese ravioli. I refrigerated the ping until I was ready to make ravioli.

I used Tyler Florence’s pasta dough recipe exactly as written. Because I rolled out the dough very thin, I was able to get double the ravioli per batch. If you’re looking to use all of your ping, you will want to make about two and a half batches of pasta dough. I used a scant tablespoon of ping per ravioli, and that was probably too much.

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I’m definitely no ravioli expert, but I think these came out fairly well for my first time making them completely on my own. I did use a pasta roller and borrowed muscle for the rolling process. I used A LOT of flour. I fork-crimped my ravioli edges, sometimes poorly, which was a bad thing because the filling can ooze out when the ravioli is boiled. Because I made over 100 ravioli, I laid them out on cookie sheets and froze them overnight before packaging them into containers.

I found that boiling them was less about time and more about appearance. Pasta color changes as it cooks, so I just watched for my ravioli to float and uniformly change in color. Maybe 5-6 minutes for fresh, and a little longer for frozen.

By all means, if you have any questions, leave a comment below, and I’ll do my best to answer!

Root Vegetable and Sausage Hash w/ Eggs

I love to have friends over for brunch. I fondly remember a cold, snowy morning two years ago when I was temporarily crashing on the futon in a couple of my friends’ apartment. There were always people around, and I would make brunch – cornbread with sautéed spinach, bacon crumbles, and poached eggs. Or pancakes that would accommodate everyone’s tastes and dietary needs. Now that I have my own particular dietary needs, I’m always struggling to find exciting food that won’t cause me to get sick. Actually, that’s a lie. There are plenty of delicious foods I can eat; the issue is with finding the time to prep them. This recipe for root vegetable and sausage hash with eggs is moderately time consuming, but Megh-friendly! I made it for friends a few weekends ago, and we dressed it all up with guava mimosas and elaborately garnished bloody marys.

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Root Vegetable and Sausage Hash w/ Eggs
serves 4 hungry lumbersexuals

1 1/2 C diced butternut squash (1 cm. pieces) – this is less than half a typical-sized squash
1 1/2 C diced turnip (1 cm. pieces) – this is one very large turnip
1 1/2 C diced carrot (1 cm. pieces) – this is just about 2 large carrots
generous splash of olive oil
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t dried thyme leaves
sprinkle, sprinkle cayenne pepper

reserved bacon fat- doesn’t everyone keep this on hand?!
1 small onion, diced
3 fresh mild italian sausages, removed from casings
4 eggs
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a cookie sheet or baking pan with aluminum foil.

Prepare your root vegetables. This means peel, cut, and dice. Dice small – about 1 cm. chunks. For each veggie, you will want a liquid measuring cup filled just over the 1 1/2 C line. Toss prepared root vegetables with olive oil, garlic powder, thyme leaves, and cayenne. Spread out onto baking pan so that vegetables rest in one layer. Roast in preheated oven for 15 – 18 minutes. When the vegetables are finished, a fork will be able to pierce a carrot without much give back. Let the veggies cool on the counter while you continue preparation.

In a shallow, oven-safe dutch oven or large skillet, over medium heat, melt 2 T of reserved bacon fat. I don’t cook bacon a ton, but when I do, I save the drippings in a reused glass jar with a lid. This is a very tasty fat to keep on hand! Anyway, I digress – add the sausage to the pan and cook until brown, about 5-7 minutes. Remove sausage from pan and set aside. Add the onion to the dirty pan and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Now it’s time to add the roasted root vegetables. (It’s also time to preheat the oven again, this time to 400 degrees.) Add another 2 T of reserved bacon fat, increase the heat to medium high, and add the vegetables. Cover all of the space on the bottom of the pan, and press the vegetables down. Leave them alone for 5 minutes or so before tossing them around and repeating the process. Do this again and again until your vegetables are as dark, crunchy, and as caramelized as you want them. Once vegetables are cooked, return the sausage to the pan and stir to combine. Crack four eggs over the top of the hash, sprinkle with some salt and pepper, and transfer skillet to the preheated oven. Let them cook for 7 minutes in the 400 degree oven, then turn off the oven and set the broiler to high. Broil for 2-3 minutes, or until whites have set. The yolks will still be runny.

Yum!! It’s time to eat!