Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Baked Sweet Potato with Black Beans, Arugula, and Poached Egg

I seem to find that when there are many things, those are the times I do the most cooking, especially baking. Maybe that's because I know I'll be pre-occupied anyway, so waiting 2 (or 3 or 4) hours for black beans to cook really won't be an issue. I'll be up anyway. Maybe it's because that I subconsciously want to create periods of great activity so I'll enjoy and appreciate downtime more when it comes. Maybe it's because my brain knows it needs some reprieves, and cooking can be a great way to work out stress. Maybe my cooking drive proportionally related to the amount of other things I have to do. I'm not sure, but I do know there should be a name for this baking-when-I'm-super-busy phenomena. I've seen it happen to many a food blogger. Anyhow....

This dish is basically made out of food gifts: one of my besties Alex gave me these two beautiful sweet potatoes from the farmer's market, and told me to make something special with them, and I happily obliged. Along with the dried black beans that my friend Eldina's mom so generously gave me when she moved and the eggs I buy from a co-worker (which are gifts in-and-of themselves), this recipe really brings me back to my roots of using what you can find and what you along with my new goals of cooking using local ingredients (potatoes, arugula, and eggs). Finders Eaters!

Baked Sweet Potato with Black Beans, Arugula, and Poached Egg
from How Sweet
serves 4

2 large sweet potatoes
1 cup cooked black beans
4 oz. cheese (I used essentially queso fresco)
2 cups arugula
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice
4 eggs, poached (or however you like)
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Pre-heat oven to 425F.
2. Poke sweet potatoes all over with a fork, place on a baking sheet with a silicon slip-mat (for easy cleaning) and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce heat and cook for 30-40 minutes more, until a fork slides all the way into the center of the potato with ease.
3. Remove potatoes from oven and let cool for 5 minutes or so. Start to cook your eggs at this point.
4. Slice the potatoes length-wise down the center and top each half with 1 oz. of cheese. Place back into the oven (put on broil) and cook for 1-2 minutes until cheese starts to turn golden-brown.
5. In a mixing bowl, toss arugula with oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
6. Plate the potatoes and top with 1/4 cup black beans, 1/2 cup salad, and the poached egg. Grind some pepper over the top (if desired), and serve immediately.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Tahini Dressing

I've been getting tons of spam-comments on my blog lately from what look like comment-spam bots from India. I've taken it as a sign calling me to get back into cooking and blogging, since I've really fallen out of doing that as of late. But I'm making it a goal as of now to at least cook one new blog-worth thing a week and post about it.

I've been getting these wonderful eggs from a co-worker, who raises chickens free-range and on vegetarian feed. They're seriously the best egg's I've ever eaten, and amazingly good and flavorful when hard-boiled without even needing salt sprinkled on top. The yolks are deep orange-yellow, and you can really taste the nutrients in them. They're actually so nutrient-rich, when I made a 2.5 egg omelettes the other day, pan-fried in oil, it smelled and tasted like what I remember dark-meat fried chicken to be like, and it was too much for me! I got sick off them. I couldn't believe that, but I guess I need to skip out on the pan-frying and water cook or bake these nutrient-rich babies. I don't think I'll ever be able to buy store-bought eggs again after this, though.

This simple light-but-hearty kale salad is perfect for dinners where you want a lot of flavor with little effort. It's quite thick with the tahini dressing, but doesn't weight you down.

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Tahini Dressing
adapted from Foodness
serves 2

2 farm-fresh eggs

3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1.5 cups water
1 small bunch kale, stems removed and thinly-sliced
1/4 cup craisins
1 Tbs. sesame seeds, toasted
 1/4 cup tahini
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. honey
salt (to taste)

1. Combine quinoa and water in a medium sauce pan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for ~12 minutes until water is absorbed. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and let sit lidless while quinoa cools.
2. Whisk together tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, zest, garlic, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
3. Add kale and cooled quinoa to bowl and toss until well-combined. Add craisins and half of the sesame seeds and toss again to combine. Sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds and serve.

Radish Carrot Top Pesto Lasagna with Sage Infused Béchamel and Pan-roasted Carrots and Kale

On my recent locavore mission, I've been going to my local farmer's market on Saturdays and buying the fresh, local, in-season produce there, with ambitious goals to . But then throughout the week I find I have no time, energy or even drive to cook and get to the next weekend with a fridge full of not-as-fresh produce giving me the pouty-face for wasting their best days sitting in a cold waiting room. It really is a tragedy.

 This time, though, I didn't let that happen: I used ALL the local produce I had. Every last bit. I would have to say this is actually the most locally-based then I've ever made. If I had gotten the freshly-ground flour that can be found at the local Hy-vee and made the lasagna noodles, it would have been pretty much pure-local. Radishes, carrots, and kale from my local farmer's market, sage from my garden (my first garden produce of the year, from my first truly-mine garden!), milk, cream, and butter from Shatto, and Kansas City-made mozzarella from Hautly Cheese Company. This is light and hearty at the same time, and tastes just like spring.

Radish Carrot Top Pesto Lasagna with Sage Infused Béchamel and Pan-roasted Carrot Purée and Kale

12 lasagna noodles
1 recipe raddish and carrot top pesto (below)
1 recipe sage-infused béchamel (recipe here)
1 recipe ricotta (recipe here)
1 bunch carrots
herb for carrots (I used rosemary)
1 Tbs. butter
salt, pepper
1 bunch kale
8 oz. mozzarella, grated
2 oz. Parmesan, grated

1. Pre-heat oven to 375F. 
2.. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
3. While water boils, melt butter in a cast-iron skillet on medium-heat. Add carrots and pan-roast with herb of choice, and sprinkle with salt.
4. Place a plate over the pan and cook until carrots are softened, stirring occasionally. When soft, food-process (adding oil if needed) until a purée is formed. Cover and set aside until assembly.
5. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. While cooking, make raddish and carrot-top pesto below.
6. Pour the lasagna water into a bowl with the washed kale, and let kale soak for a minute until kale is softened. Strain and squeeze as much liquid out of the kale as possible, and set aside.
7. Butter the lasagna dish, and assemble the lasagna: Pour 1/4 of the béchamel on the bottom of the pan. 
- Lay 4 noodles across the pan, slightly overlapping if need be. 
- Spread a layer of 1/2 the carrot purée, half the ricotta, half the carrot top pesto, half the kale, spreading out the leaves, and another 1/4th of the béchamel
Repeat above 2 bullet points for the next layer. Place remaining lasagna noodles on top, then remaining 1/4th of the béchamel on top and evenly sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan on top. 
8. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until cheese on top starts to get golden-brown and bubbly. Remove from oven.
9. Let lasagna sit and set for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Raddish and Carrot-top Pesto
2 cups mixed carrot and/or radish tops, stems chopped off
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
2 - 4 Tbs. oil, as needed
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until they are completely ground.
2. Add the tops and process until completely chopped, scraping down the sides as needed.
3. Process again, slowly adding oil until a nice paste is formed. Add salt and pepper to taste and put aside in a covered bowl until assembling lasagna.

Pear Arugula Salad with Walnuts and Bleu Cheese

Finally, spring has sprung!

Local, sustainable ingredients are abound, and I've been soaking it all in : ) (More posts to follow shortly) After a winter of little-to-no cooking, and being busy settling into my new job and life back in the KC area I've been the traditional vegetarian stereotype that just subsists off of salads (yes, yes this is a salad recipe, something I usually don't bother blogging about since my diet is super-saturated with salads, but this one is truly special).

But, now that the local, organic farmer's market is getting into full-swing and I can get some great in-season produce just up on the road on Saturdays, it's almost impossible to not to cook something fabulous with these ingredients. It would almost be a waste to keep making the same salad again and again with these ingredients. I got the arugula, radishes, and honey locally.

This salad would be a great spring dinner-party course: stunning, fresh, and delicious, and it takes minimal work to prepare.

Pear Arugula Salad with Walnuts and Bleu Cheese
from Cooking Melangery
serves 1

1 ripe (but firm) pear
1 cup arugula
5 radishes, sliced on a medium mandolin setting
2 Tbs. toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1 - 2 Tbs. bleu cheese, crumbled
1/2 Tbs. oil (I used walnut)
a splash white wine vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper
honey for drizzling
lemon juice (optional)

1. Cut pears horizontally into 4 slices, and cut out just the cores, but leaving the stem on the top piece. Brush with lemon juice to keep from browning (can cut pears last to skip that bit if you don't have lemon juice)
2. Toss arugula, radishes, walnuts, bleu cheese, oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper together in a bowl until everything is well-coated.
3. Assemble the pear with the mixed salad between each slice, stuffing as full as possible, alternating salad and pear slices until the pear is re-composed.
4. Drizzle with honey and serve.