Meatless Mondays: Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

I admit that I don’t love the cold weather. People take up so much more room on the subways with their puffy winter coats on! But with the cold weather comes some delicious winter treats, and one of those is butternut squash. They’ve been prominent in supermarkets ever since Sukkot, and I’ve made soup with them, roasted them, and added some the pot pie. But now it’s time to add another cold-weather favorite to the mix, apple cider. I love warm apple cider, especially from the farmer’s market near Columbia on Thursdays. Yes, I schedule my grad school classes around apple cider, who wouldn’t?

So welcome winter with a totally-fitting-for-a-main-dish-salad on this Meatless Monday!

Anyway, I couldn’t pass up on this salad recipe that calls for a salad with teeny little butternut squash chunks and a warm dressing made with apple cider. The dried cranberries can’t hurt either. Usually I don’t like walnuts. I never buy them, and I never add them to my brownies or baked goods, unless my mom is coming over. She thinks walnuts make any cookie or brownie infinitely better. They actually add a nice crunch to this salad, and an extra texture, which I like. This salad has crispy lettuce, soft butternut squash, chewy cranberries, and hard walnuts. What more can you ask for in a salad? Oh, a warm dressing, obviously.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette, adapted from Ina Garten:

For the dressing:

  • 3/4 cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar, which I don’t have in my pantry – you can use red wine, too)
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots (I omitted these)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

1. Combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce to 1/4 cup, about 6-8 minutes.

2. Off the heat, add the olive oil, Dijon, salt, and pepper.

For the salad:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch dice (about 1 1/2 pounds, if you have a scale)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted
  • 4 ounces lettuce, I used mixed baby greens. Ina used baby arugula.
  • Some Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. On a half sheet pan, combine the butternut squash, olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the squash becomes soft and begins to brown.

3. When the squash has been roasting for 15 minutes, add the dried cranberries to the sheet pan.

4. Place the lettuce in a large bowl and add the roasted squash and cranberries, and walnuts.

5. Spoon dressing over the top until just moistened. Toss well. Serve with a shaved Parmesan cheese.

Basil Green Goddess Dressing

I don’t usually make creamy salad dressings. I usually make just a simple vinaigrette. While leafing through Barefoot Contessa at Home for the millionth time, this salad dressing really caught my eye, and I knew I had to try it. It has a wonderful basil flavor and a nice creamy texture. You don’t need many vegetables to make this salad extraordinary. Just lettuce, maybe some avocado and tomato. The dressing is enough to make just lettuce seem special.

I don’t have a blender. But don’t worry, this dressing was still easy to make, using my immersion blender and the measuring cup that comes with it. Actually, that might have made the task a bit easier. Not only was I able to measure the ingredients in the cup, I also stored the dressing in it and didn’t have to dirty an extra dish! Not owning a dishwasher makes you really think about that one extra cup, bowl, or spoon.

Ina’s recipe for this dressing suggests serving it with Bibb lettuce and a few tomatoes. I happened to have had some romaine lettuce in my fridge, so I just used that. I think a crispy lettuce is just perfect for this dressing, so don’t go pouring it over your baby arugula (or if you try it, let me know).

This is a perfect way to use up some of the basil in your summer garden if you’re sick of making pesto (or you just don’t have enough basil to make pesto). It’s also a good creamy salad dressing for the winter, though. Which is when I like it best.

I’ve actually never made regular Green Goddess dressing before, which is made with tarragon instead of basil. I’m not such a fan of that flavor, and I happen to love basil, so my guess is that I’d like Ina’s updated version better. She also added anchovy paste, something I don’t stock in my pantry. If you want to add it, add a teaspoon.

Not only is this a good salad dressing, but since it’s thick you can use it as a dipping sauce for veggies, a perfect mid-day snack!

Zeke, who usually doesn’t eat any salad, went back for seconds of this one.

Basil Green Goddess Dressing, adapted from Ina Garten. I halved the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and light green parts only (6-7 scallions)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Directions:

1. Place the mayonnaise, scallions, basil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Add the sour cream and process until smooth.

3. Pour the dressing over salad and serve.

Marinated Beets

I have been making these beets every time I picked up beets from my csa, and I’m sorry for not sharing with you sooner! They are simple to make, you already have the ingredients in your pantry (I hope) and you make them one night and eat them throughout the week. I like them plain, but you can also add them to salads.

Beets are really healthy! That’s why The New York Times featured them in “Recipes for Health.” So you should make these as a healthy snack. No more potato chips for you! Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t bad-mouth potato chips; they don’t stain my hands red when I handle them! And they’re crunchy and addictive and delicious. But so are these.

Marinated Beets from The New York Times

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb beets, scrubbed and trimmed
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, divided
  • salt to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Directions:

  1. Put the beets in a saucepan and cover with water. Add 1/4 cup of the vinegar and the salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until beets are tender.
  2. Remove from heat and add garlic to the pot. Let cool.
  3. While cooling, combine the remaining vinegar and the sugar and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
  4. Without draining the pot, remove the beets from the pot, peel the skins off and cut into wedges.
  5. Stir in 1/4 cup of the beet liquid and the garlic into the vinegar and sugar mixture. Toss with the beets and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the garlic and serve, or cover and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Meatless Mondays: Swiss Chard and Ricotta Crostata

When Marc and Adele forgot their vegetables at my house, I got excited about the idea of using these farm-fresh veggies for a dish. It was basically just a lot of swiss chard and an onion. I used the onion, but had no idea what to do with the rainbow swiss chard. It sat in my fridge for about a week. Then, while watching the Food Network, I saw Anne Burrell make a really great looking crostata with swiss chard and ricotta cheese, something I always have in my fridge. I knew I had to try it!

I made some modifications to the recipe, mainly changing the crust altogether (I always have some dough in my fridge, so defrosting it was a big time saver). The mascarpone dough looked pretty great, so if you want to give it a try, go for it!

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Tart, adapted from Anne Burrell:

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe flaky pie or tart dough
  • Olive oil, enough to cover a saute pan
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 leek, washed and cut into half rings
  • 1 bunch of rainbow swiss chard, stems cut into 1/4 inch strips and leaves cut into 1 inch strips
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

Instructions:

1. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan and add the garlic cloves and pepper flakes.

2. When the garlic is browned, remove from pan and discard.

3. Add the chopped leeks, swiss chard stems, and some water. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft and the water evaporates, about 15 minutes.

4. Add the leaves and season with more salt. Cook until the leaves wilt.

5. Remove from heat and add the ricotta, cayenne pepper, and egg.

6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

7. Roll out the dough and place on a baking sheet. It’s okay if the edges hang off a little bit, because you will fold them over.

8. Spoon the ricotta mixture in the middle. Fold over the edges. Brush edges with egg wash (oops, I forgot this step).

9. Bake for 35-45 minutes.

10. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Pickled Ginger

We sent my father shopping with a list that was pretty foreign to him. Luckily, the lady at the fruit store pointed him towards all the correct ingredients and we were able to make Stephanie’s soba noodle salad. Unluckily, he had no idea what the ingredients were or what quantities to get, and he came home with a foot of ginger! What did we do with all that ginger? Why, pickle it of course! Pickled ginger is definitely a staple at sushi restaurants, but now we can eat it whenever we make Asian-inspired meals.

This was a really simple recipe, something that can be whipped up on a weeknight or while doing some prep work in the kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of ginger, peeled and sliced very thinly (use a mandolin or vegetable peeler)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups rice vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar

Duck Prosciutto, Take 2

Ah, so I bet you were wondering what I did with that other duck breast. Well, I didn’t just leave it alone in the fridge to roast. I didn’t cure it the same way, either. I found a completely different recipe for duck prosciutto and experimented with that one. No, I did not confuse the two breasts hanging in my fridge at the same time (Zeke was quite confused, I might add). I liked this recipe because it called for a bunch of different spices and I got to use my mortar and pestle. I love that tool (those tools?). Continue reading

Bizir Revisited

So I know I already showed you how I toast pumpkin seeds to make bizir, but the photo (that’s right, just one photo!) is ugly, so when I got a baby bear pumpkin from csa I took some better pictures for you. The technique is the same, I cleaned, rinsed and dried the seeds and then tossed them with a bit of olive oil, salt and cayenne pepper for some kick before roasting them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. They’re a little bit harder to crack open than the ones you buy at the markets on Kings Highway, but I made them, so they’re better!

This tiny pumpkin gave me about 2 cups of puree, so get ready for some pumpkin bread and ice cream!

Meatless Mondays: Mushroom Rice

A version of this dish is a staple in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. When we go there for barbecue on Sunday nights, we always have this delicious mushroom-y rice that she made using leftover Shabbat rice (Syrians make a lot of rice). I decided to duplicate this dish in a non-leftovers way and used brown rice to make it a little healthier. You can try it with your favorite kind of rice. Continue reading

Triple Berry Jam

Summer’s coming to an end, so stock up on your berries and preserve them any way you could. Our favorite way to do this is to make jam. Though freezing is probably easier, cooking and preserving the berries is a very flavorful way to enjoy our summer produce all year long. It also makes a really nice gift!

(Berries actually freeze quite well. Make sure to clean and dry them, and then store them in a zip top bag. Make sure to suck all the air out and seal it tight so that the berries don’t get freezer burned. If you want to freeze strawberries, hull them before freezing.)

Last year we made raspberry jam with raspberries we picked ourselves from a local farm. We also made strawberry-fig jam, inspired by my backyard fig tree. This summer we decided to make more mixed fruit jams, and the apricot-nectarine turned out really orange and delicious. This raspberry-strawberry-blueberry jam is an amazing deep purplish pink color. We can’t decide if it tastes better than it looks or looks better than it tastes.

Oh, we took all the photos with my new(ish) Droid-X. Pretty cool, huh?

All jam making directions and tips are from pickyourown.org and the package of pectin.

Ingredients:

  • 10 cups of unprepared berries, we used 2 pints of blueberries, 1 1/2 pints of strawberries, and 3 (1-cup) packages of raspberries (when you mash these, you’ll have about 6 cups of fruit)
  • Juice and zest of two lemons
  • 6 cups white sugar
  • 1 package Sure Jell pectin (the yellow package)

Equipment:

  • 1 large pot
  • 2 large bowls (one for berries, one for sugar)
  • Measuring cups
  • 1 large pot
  • Potato masher
  • Mixing spoon
  • Cup of ice water and teaspoon (to test jam)

For canning:

  • Mason jars with tops and rings
  • Canning funnel
  • Magnetic lid lifter
  • Jar tongs
  • Small pot for boiling the lids
  • Pot for boiling prepared jars
  • Dishwasher or large pot for sterilizing jars

Instructions:

If you are canning, make sure to sterilize the jars. If using a dishwasher, run it without soap. If using a pot, fill the pot with water and the jars and boil. Do not touch the inside of the jars (that’s why you have the jar tongs), because that will introduce bacteria to the sterilized jars and could result in icky jam! Do this now so it will be ready when you are. Boil the lids, too.

1. Wash the fruit. Sort through it to make sure you have no bad berries or stems, etc.

2. Chop the strawberries.

3. Add the fruit to a bowl and make sure you have 10 cups. Mash.

4. Measure out the sugar. Set aside 1/4 cup of sugar and mix with the pectin. This will allow the pectin to incorporate into the fruit better, and make sure you don’t have lumpy jam.

5. Add fruit to large pot and cook over high heat, stirring constantly. When it comes to a full rolling boiling, meaning it doesn’t stop bubbling even when you stir, time one minute. Add the pectin and stir until it dissolves.

6. While still stirring, add the sugar, a cupful at a time, until it is all incorporated.

7. Continue stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a rolling boil again. After one minute, test the jam to make sure it sets.

8. Take a spoonful of jam and dip it in a cup of ice water. If it gels, it’s ready to be jarred. If not, boil for another minute and test again.

9. Use a ladle or big spoon to fill the sterilized jars. Leave about 1/2 inch of space at the top.

10. Use the magnetic lid lifter to cover, making sure to clean the jars before placing the tops on. Screw on the lid.

11. After all the jam is canned, place in about 2 inches of water and boil for 5 minutes (or more, depending on altitude). You will hear the tops POP, either while they are boiling or after when they are cooling. If you don’t hear the pop after a while, try boiling again or just put the jam in the fridge and use it right away. It will still be good.

12. The boiled jars should last about a year (’til next summer).

This recipe made 10 6-oz jars of jam.