Saturday, September 27, 2008

Savory Roasted Grapes

These look like olives, and we served them alongside two dishes of olives, but they are, in fact, grapes! I know it sounds weird--but hear me out. Grapes are in season right now, and while they're plenty delicious just popped in your mouth as snacks or fermented into wine, sometimes autumn abundance just cries out for a little innovation. So last weekend, we decided to give grapes our household produce spa treatment, i.e. dousing them with olive oil and salt and roasting them. This resulted in a surprising and delectable addition to our game night buffet: savory grapes, warm from the oven and addictively salty-sweet. They're fabulous with a cheese plate or on toast, or just plain. The grapes will give off a delicious liquid that practically begs to be sopped up with a good crusty piece of bread.

We meant to do this with concord grapes, and you should definitely try that if you have them. But the Berkeley Bowl was out of concord grapes, so we just substituted seedless black grapes. We can't vouch for red or green grapes, but you're welcome to try--and let us know how it works!

1 lb Concord or black seedless grapes
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt

Roll grapes with olive oil and salt in a 9 x 13 inch pan (cookie sheets won't work here because the grapes will give off liquid). Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, until soft and juicy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pasta & Kale with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

This point in mid-September is a really great time for pasta sauces, because you still have seasonal tomatoes and bell peppers but it's finally cooled down enough to slave over a hot stove. Roasting the tomatoes along with the red peppers concentrates their sweetness and dries them out a little, which keeps the sauce from getting too watery, and a little tomato paste finishes the job. Fried shallots and fragrant oregano sing backup -- a nice change from garlic and basil.

We've also used the 101 Cookbooks kale and pasta trick: add kale to boiling pasta just as it finishes, count to six and drain. It really works! We made this with brown rice rotini, but ziti, fusilli or any other small shapely pasta will be work too. (And while we ordinarily heart rice pasta, this batch met with an untimely end: a DNC canvasser knocked on the door at a critical moment, which meant that the pasta got overcooked. Score: Barack Obama 1, rice pasta 0).

4 red bell peppers
4 medium-sized tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 lb. pasta
10 leaves kale, de-stemmed and thinly sliced

Place the red bell peppers and the tomato halves (cut side up) on a cookie sheet and broil for 15-20 minutes, until peppers are blackened (check periodically to turn peppers, so that they blacken on all sides). Remove cookie sheet from broiler, transfer tomato halves to the blender and place peppers in a paper bag to steam for about 15 minutes. When the peppers have cooled down, peel off the charred skins, discard cores and seeds and chop roughly. Add the chopped peppers to the blender and pulverize with the tomatoes until well blended.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil or butter over medium-high heat and add the shallots, salt and crushed red pepper. Fry for a few minutes, until shallots start to color, then remove from heat. Add the tomato-pepper mixture, tomato paste and fresh oregano and return to a very low flame. Simmer and stir for 5 minutes, just to blend the flavors.

Cook your pasta according to package directions (unless you made your own pasta, in which case: feel superior! We're jealous). Just before the pasta is ready, add the kale, count to six, and drain. Mix in the sauce and serve.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Curried Coconut Corn Soup with Yogurt and Lime

Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen is one of our favorite cookbooks. The recipes are organized seasonally, so you end up with soups that naturally pair whatever comes into season at the same time and involve appropriate amounts of cooking for the temperature outside: roasted vegetable soups for fall, quick simmers and cold soups for summer. This is one of our go-to soups from that cookbook, and a great way to use the last of the summer corn.

We've modified the recipe only slightly: Madison adds the garam masala (an Indian spice blend available at Indian groceries and the spice aisle at Whole Foods or easily made at home) with the onion, but we've been noticing lately that garam masala ends up tasting bitter when we add it too soon. So we add it later, with the corn and coconut milk.

Curried Corn and Coconut Soup with Yogurt and Lime
modified from
Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen

4 ears corn, yellow or white varieties, shucked
8 cilantro branches plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup finely diced red onion, trimmings reserved
1 tablespoon butter or roasted peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon hot or mild paprika
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon flour (gluten-free friends, we've tried this with rice flour and it works)
1 can light or regular coconut milk (1 and 1/2 to 2 cups)
Juice of 1 lime, or more to taste
1/2 cup yogurt
Cilantro sprigs for garnish

Heat 6 cups water in a saucepan. Meanwhile, slice the corn off the cobs, taking just the top halves of the kernels, then reverse your knife and run the dull edge down the cobs to press out the liquid. Break the cobs and put them in the heating water with the cilantro branches and any onion trimmings. Simmer for at least 15 minutes--longer if you can--then strain.

Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then add all the spices except the garam masala and cook a few minutes more. Stir in the flour, pour in the coconut milk, and add the corn and the scrapings, the chopped cilantro, 1 and 1/2 cups stock, and 1 teaspoon salt. If the soup is too thick, thin it with more water. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Squeeze in the lime juice and taste, adjusting the salt if needed. Refrigerate if you want to serve the soup chilled.

Beat the yogurt with a fork until smooth. Serve the soup with a swirl of yogurt and sprigs of cilantro in each bowl.

Monday, September 1, 2008

One Year of Hearting Kale

Happy anniversary to the blog! Digital camera in hand, we set out exactly one year ago to archive our recipes and amuse ourselves, and have ended up with comments from across the country and readers from all over the world, according to Google Analytics! Most importantly, having the blog has pushed us to be more creative--knowing that someone will actually read our recipes, we've taken risks and gone through multiple iterations of dishes to get the seasoning and proportions just right, resulting in some pretty awesome stuff we might not have come up with sans blog. To celebrate, here are our top five blog success stories, recipes we perfected for the blog and have continued to enjoy after posting.

#1: Tortilla Soup. The first recipe we ever posted is also the one with the most hits, so it seems like everyone else loves this one as much as we do!

#2: Dark Chocolate Mousse Pie with a Coconut Crust. Ordinarily, we're a little shy sharing dessert recipes--if you eat normal cookies, whole wheat agave-sweetened hermits taste like cardboard. But having the blog made us realize that there are other folks out there who want to make delicious sweet treats without refined flour or sugar, and we happily monkeyed around in the kitchen to get the perfect consistency for this filling. Now, we have a go-to dessert whenever there's a potluck, and this is it.

#3: Brussel Sprout and Green Bean Bhaji. When we plan out menus, now we try to think not just about making food that is delicious and healthy, but also about making food that is bloggable. This has resulted in a lot of season-specific variations of old standbys--for example, adding brussels sprouts to a much-loved bhaji right after Thanksgiving!

#4: Raw Kale Salad with Tamari-Roasted Almonds. One of the main innovation drivers in our kitchen has been trying to create new kale recipes for the kale-hearting masses (and those striving to join their ranks). With that goal in mind, we went on a kale binge week, and this is the standout recipe from that experiment, with the most reported reader attempts of any recipe on the blog!

#5: Whole Grain Strata with Oregano and Myzithra. Situation: a loaf of rapidly-aging sprouted bread. Usual remedy: breadcrumbs. Blog-era remedy: whole-grain strata!

Thanks so much to all of you for reading, commenting and being a part of our kitchen. Here's to another year of cooking for you guys!