December 22, 2009

We marked the solstice with colcannon.  An Irish dish–albeit loosely interpreted–somehow seemed suitable for the shortest day of the year, since the Irish strike me as folks who know a thing or two about darkness.


  • 5-6 medium red potatoes
  • 1 turnip
  • 1/2 rutabaga
  • 1/2 head cabbage, cut into strips
  • 1/2 bunch kale, cut into strips
  • 1 medium leek, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk or kefir
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook the potatoes, parsnip, and rutabaga in a pot of boiling water until soft.
  2. Drain; mash with buttermilk and a touch of salt.
  3. In a separate pot, saute the onion for 2-3 minutes.  Add the cabbage, kale, salt, pepper, and a splash of water; steam on low heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Toss in the leek and cumin; cook for another 2 minutes.

Now, you can simply serve the cabbage+kale+leek mixture on top of the mashed roots.  I happened to also want some black beans + paprika (prepared along these lines)–and yes, a poached egg, for a touch of sunshine on this darkest, longest of nights.


Ugly-no-more pie

December 21, 2009

Remember my ugly but delicious pie?  The one that made my colleagues gasp in a not-so-good way when I pulled it out for lunch?

Well, it’s been bugging me ever since, and with a rapidly growing sense of urgency.  See, my Unbelievably Adorable Dad’s birthday is coming up soon and I very much want the pie’s flavor –but not its looks–at our party. Really, one should not have to celebrate getting within a year of Medicare eligibility with a breathtakingly unattractive dish.

And behold!  The problem has been solved.  Thanks, Serious Eaters, for your many good ideas.  It was actually Chef R0bert’s observation–that the following ingredients, mixed, were simply not going to produce an appetizing concoction–that made me slap my forehead and realize that I should simply layer them instead.

Baby portabella + butternut squash+kale pie

  • 1 pie crust (yours or Pilsbury’s; I’m not going to judge)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1lb baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 butternut squash, microwaved (like this) and disemboweled
  • 1 fistful of kale, ripped into bite-sized pieces and steamed for 5 minutes
  • 1 14oz can roasted, diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon chipotle pepper (or more, if you’re like me and like FIRE)
  • salt to taste
  • a toss of blue cheese

You will notice that kale and blue cheese are the only deviations from the original recipe.  The kale is there because I desperately needed something green all of a sudden, and the blue cheese joined the party simply because that’s what we had this time around.

  1. Sautee the onion, garlic, and mushrooms for a couple of minutes.
  2. Pour the mushroom mixture into the pie crust.  Top with layers of squash, tomatoes, kale, cheese.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350F.

Is this not SO much better?

That blissful holiday weekend of near-hibernation made me realize that my attitude toward the Dark Season has been totally misguided.  Instead of putting up a fight, I should just succumb to it!

Between now and March, then, I will answer the call of the me-shaped dent in the sofa as soon as each day’s duties are over, getting up only occasionally to knead some dough, and stir a pot, and get more wine.

So, to kick off this Dark Season Management project, how about a dish that involves kneading and stirring and wine?…

Yam gnocchi

  • 2 roasted yams
  • 1 egg
  • 2.5 cups whole wheat flour
  1. Combine everything in a mixing bowl.
  2. Knead!
  3. Shape the dough into two long logs on a flat surface.
  4. Cut it into bite-sized gnocchi.
  5. Cook gnocchi in boiling water for 5 minutes; drain and serve.


Chunky roasted tomato sauce with kale and carrots

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 14.5 oz cans roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 bunch kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 carrots, shaved into strips (use a vegetable peeler)
  • 1 glug of red wine (+ 1 glug for the cook, while you’re at it)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Saute the onion and garlic for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add a splash of wine and let it deglaze for another minute or so.
  3. Add the tomato sauce, kale, carrots.
  4. Cook on low for ~20 minutes.
  5. Serve over the gnocchi–with some feta crumbles, perhaps?

Have I mentioned how much I love my slow cooker, but resent the fact that it does just fine without me and actually seems to frown upon my frequent poking and prodding and stirring?  It seems to sternly imply that things were going just fine under its tantalizingly steamy lid until I came along with my big spoon to assault it.  And indeed, the slow cooker does turn the most unlikely ingredients into rather lovely dishes with so little involvement on my part that I can hardly claim any credit–especially if leftovers are involved.  Like in the case of this soup…

Turkey + rice + kale + sweet potato soup

  • turkey leftovers–whatever you have!  (I used just that drumstick in the picture and it was plenty, flavor- and meat-wise; however, a fistful of white meat or dark meat should work just as well, and so should a piece of the good old carcass)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 10 cups water
  • 1.5 cup rice
  • salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste (may I recommend chipotle pepper, cayenne pepper, and some oregano?)
  1. Put everything except the kale into the slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low for 4 hours.
  3. Add the kale and cook for another 30 minutes.

We’re off to New Orleans later this week.  There shall be muffulettas, and mint juleps, and beignets, and a visit to Galatoire’s.  And there shall surely be heartbreak.  But, first things first: we must empty the fridge to get it ready for our absence, and for the holiday food orgy that will kick in shortly after our return.

So, what have we got?  For starters: a butternut squash, some onions, a few carrots, and a couple of sad pepper halves.  And speaking of sad! you should see the remnants of that kale bunch I raided last week.  Then there are also some potatoes, a single stem of broccoli (where did its siblings go?), and two striped eggplants for which I once had some fancy plans.

It’s a challenge, then: nothing will go to waste, and it will all be delicious.  So, let’s start with this cheesy butternut squash+kale casserole:

  • innards of 1 butternut squash
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 1 8oz can of tomato sauce (or 1/2 of a larger one)
  • 2 tbsp cottage cheese
  • a fistful of shredded cheese (smoked gouda in our case)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinches of a couple of herbs (e.g., oregano, tarragon)
  1. Microwave the butternut squash; let it cool.  Scoop out its innards and place them into a shallow greased dish.  (You can add seasonings some at this point; just smoosh them in.)
  2. Saute the onion for ~5 minutes.  Add a splash of water, salt+pepper+seasonings, and kale leaves torn into bite-sized pieces.  Cover and let steam on low for ~3 minutes.
  3. Pile the kale and onion mixture on the butternut squash.  Cover with tomato sauce and cottage cheese.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese across the top.
  4. Bake for ~35 minutes on 375F.
  5. Eat with that buttermilk bread that you were originally going to take to your sister.


To put together a classic jury duty day you will need:

  • 1 jury summons, clutched in a sweaty palm as you make your way downtown at an obscenely early hour
  • 2 trips through the metal detector and 1 intimate session with the lady with the hand-held device
  • 1 riveting piece of cinematography titled “You, the Juror”
  • dangerously low levels of caffeine, lest you should need to pee while being questioned by the judge
  • 1 person with a juicy cough, seated right next to you
  • 6 hours of mind-numbing boredom, butt-numbing seats, and low-grade anxiety
  • 1 check for $17.20, at the end of it all

Oh wait–you’re here for that squash pasta sauce I promised in the title?  Right!  Let me start over.

Here’s how to assemble a luscious pasta dish with a touch of autumn:

  • 1/2 large onion
  • innards of 1 roasted  (or microwaved) acorn squash
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 box of whole wheat pasta (something chunky, like farfalle, will hold the sauce well)
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • dashes of turmeric, cinnamon, chipotle pepper, salt, oregano
  1. Saute the onion and squash for a couple of minutes.  Add the tomatoes and seasonings and let it all simmer, covered, while you prepare the pasta and kale. Look how happy you’re going to be every time you peek under the lid:IMG_4342
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Throw in the chopped kale and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the pasta and cook for another 10 minutes.
  3. Drain.  Serve.  Eat.  Be glad you don’t have jury duty any time soon.

Kale + barley soup

November 3, 2009


While this soup did not bring that stolen hour of daylight back, it did make me feel a touch better.  Here, you try:

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of barley
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • ~7-8 cups of water
  • salt, pepper, parsley, tarragon, thyme to taste
  1. Saute the onion, garlic, carrot, and seasonings.  Add barley and swirl it around distractedly  for a minute or so.
  2. Add water; bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for ~25 minutes.
  4. Toss in the coarsely chopped kale.  Simmer for another ~20 minutes, until it’s all soft and lovely.