July 12, 2009

Spicy Carrot Sald

This recipe comes from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World. Slicing or julienning the carrots takes a bit of time (I used a mandoline and julienned the carrots, but it still took some time), but once that's done, the recipe takes hardly any effort at all. The caraway seeds give this a very distinctive flavor.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put the carrots, garlic, sugar, caraway, cumin, paprika, and oil into a wide skillet or saucepan.
  2. Add enough water to cover, bring to a boil, turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until the carrots are slightly soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. (Bittman says to cook until the water is mostly evaporated. I never got that much evaporation, so I just scooped the carrots and spices out into a bowl with a slotted spoon.) Drain and remove to a bowl.
  3. Remove and mince the garlic cloves. Add them back to the carrots. Add the harissa, olives (if using), and feta (if using) and toss to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Serve at room temperature.

Posted by spaceling at 04:59 PM

March 11, 2009

Braised Carrots and Chickpeas

This makes a nice herby but sweet side dish, or could be a complete vegetarian meal with a bit of bread, rice, or couscous to mop up the broth. (Actually, bread, rice, or couscous to mop up the broth would be nice in any case - I didn't think of it when preparing last night's dinner, though.)

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan until hot. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or so, until the onion starts to soften.
  2. Add the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes or so. (I just let the carrots cook while I prepped the sage, parsley, lemon, and the ingredients for the rest of dinner.)
  3. Add the chickpeas, sage, lemon zest, and enough broth to not quite cover the mixture in the pan. Stir it all up and bring it to a simmer.
  4. Cover and cook until the carrots are tender, but not mushy. Probably about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on how thick the carrots were cut.
  5. When the carrots are done, stir in the parsley, the lemon juice, and the butter, if using.

Posted by spaceling at 07:24 AM

March 16, 2008

Easy Polenta

Conventional wisdom says that making polenta requires tons and tons of stirring. Because of this, I've tended to resort to the "instant" stuff that cooks in 5 minutes, or the stuff you buy in tubes at the grocery store to slice up and saute.

So, I was intrigued to come across the claim by Jack Bishop, in his A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen that you can cook polenta with little stirring if you cook it covered, over low heat. I tried it, and it works. And produces a noticeably nicer polenta than the instant or precooked stuff.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. In a largish saucepan, bring the water to a nice, rolling boil. Turn the heat to low and add the salt.
  2. Pour in the cornmeal slowly, whisking constantly. (I actually just stirred rapidly with a wooden spoon. This part is important for not getting lumps. It takes about a minute to get all the cornmeal whisked in.
  3. Cover the saucepan. Cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and the cornmeal doesn't taste raw or gritty.
  4. Stir in the butter, and season to taste with additional salt.

Serves 4-6 people, depending on how much they like polenta.

Posted by spaceling at 08:03 PM

January 12, 2008

Sauteed Mushrooms

I made these mushrooms to serve alongside broiled steak. They were really tasty. I need to figure out how to make more without overcrowding the pan and ruining the recipe. (Maybe do the initial cooking of the mushrooms in batches?)

A really nice thing about this recipe is that if you have all your ingredients prepped, and start heating the skillet at about the same time you start preheating the broiler, it takes almost exactly the same amount of time as it takes to broil steaks to medium-rare and rest them. You can also throw together a very simple green salad at the same time, and you've got a complete dinner in under 30 minutes.

The use of sherry was inspired by my having bought a bottle to make Spanish Daube last weekend, and wondering how sherry would complement other foods. I might do an experiment with different kinds of booze (sherry, brandy, wine, vermouth, etc.) to see how each complements the mushrooms. Mr. Spaceling has valiantly volunteered to taste test.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat a bit of butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. (Ideally, use a skillet large enough so that you can cook the mushrooms in a single layer.)
  2. Add the thyme and garlic, and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring.
  3. Add the mushrooms. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked through and tender and have rendered out some of their liquid, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add a good splash of Worcestershire sauce and the sherry. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost boiled away.
  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper. For an extra bit of decadence, toss in some extra butter and stir until it melts. Serve as soon as possible.

This served three people quite amply, although I think we'd happily have polished off a second batch of the mushrooms if I'd made one.

Posted by spaceling at 09:56 AM

October 09, 2007

Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini

Hi! I'm not dead, nor have I stopped cooking, but I've been very busy and have been falling back on a lot of old standby recipes. I did try something new tonight that worked out really well - I think I've mentioned before that when I cook eggplant, it often comes out okay, but not great - in particular, the texture is often a bit spongy and not as silky as I'd like. Well, tonight I made some eggplant that was perfect. I don't know if the credit goes to the eggplant (a cute local variety with purple and white stripes) or the technique. Further experimentation is warranted.



  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Cut the zucchini into half-inch thick rounds. (I used small, relatively thin zucchini - if you're using big ones, you might want to cut the rounds into half moons.)
  3. Cut the eggplant into pieces roughly the same size as the zucchini rounds.
  4. Put the eggplant and zucchini pieces into a roasting pan or baking dish. Sprinkle fairly liberally with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Dust with coriander, cumin, and paprika, tossing to coat.
  5. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until the vegetables are tender and just a little bit browned on the edges.
  6. Put the vegetables into a bowl, toss with lemon juice and additional olive oil to taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 2. (Next time I'm making a bigger batch.) I served with pita bread, tzatziki sauce, and a gigandes bean salad.

Posted by spaceling at 10:03 PM

August 30, 2007

Roasted Cauliflower with Spanish Smoked Paprika and Cumin

Mr. Spaceling and I were at a family gathering recently, and Mr. Spaceling remarked to a cousin of mine (who knows a thing or two about cooking herself) that although I've gotten him to eat any number of vegetables that he'd never previously have looked twice at, broccoli and cauliflower remain the final frontier.

My cousin very sensibly suggested that I try roasting the stuff.

I decided to stack the deck even further by adding some Spanish smoked paprika. The result? Cauliflower cheerfully consumed by Mr. Spaceling. (I decided to try cauliflower first because it is not green and therefore is less scary.)

I didn't measure anything in this recipe, so take the quantities given as highly approximate.



  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Toss the cauliflower in a bowl with enough olive oil to lightly coat. Add the spices and salt and pepper to taste, and toss to coat.
  3. Roast in a baking pan in the oven until tender and lightly browned, stirring every 10 minutes or so. (My cauliflower took about 25 to 30 minutes).

Posted by spaceling at 11:01 AM

December 22, 2006

Roasted Carrots

This is a great simple side-dish. Roasting carrots makes them tender and brings out their natural sweetness. (If you wanted to take that one step further, you could probably drizzle with honey before or after roasting.)

I used baby carrots. You could probably use bigger ones - I'd cut them into thick-ish carrot sticks first, and possibly peel them.

Anyway, here's what I did:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. Scrub your carrots. Dry them well. Cut off the tops and any straggly hairy bit of root at the ends.

  3. Put the carrots in a roasting pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle them with olive oil, and then shake the pan so that they are evenly coated.

  4. Put the pan in the oven, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, shaking the pan a couple of times to make sure the carrots brown evenly.

I took the carrots out when they were just lightly golden brown. I had intended to sprinkle them with chopped parsley, but since the rest of dinner was ready, I forgot and just popped them straight onto our plates. We scarfed them. There was just enough for two servings, plus a smidgen extra. I let Mr. Spaceling have the extra, because having Mr. Spaceling ask for seconds on a cooked vegetable is exceedingly rare and a thing to be encouraged. But I was very tempted not to.

Next time, I'll roast 2 bunches of baby carrots.

Posted by spaceling at 09:49 PM | TrackBack

December 16, 2006

Roasted Vegetable Salad

I'm catching up a bit on things that I made while my computer was being wonky. I made this for dinner one night last weekend. It was loosely inspired by a recipe in Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries, and by the fact that I'd picked up a pound of baby eggplant without any real notion of what to do with them.

The Ingredients

*Harissa is a Tunisian spice paste, composed primarily of red chilies, cumin, and coriander. It's hot, but not tongue-searing. I bought mine from Kalustyan's, though I'm not sure I picked a particularly good one. It seems a bit tame. I'll probably try making my own soon, since I have about half a dozen recipes for it in various books.

The Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Put the tomatoes in a baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. (I used a 9 x 9 inch square pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Shake the pan until the tomatoes are coated with olive oil.
  3. Quarter the baby eggplants. (Or cut large eggplant into 1 x 1 x 2 inch chunks.) Put them in a baking dish large enough to hold in a single layer. (I used a 9 x 13 inch pan.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil, and stir/shake to coat. (I also meant to add about a teaspoon of whole cumin seed at this point, but I forgot. I will try it next time, though.)
  4. Roast the tomatoes and eggplant for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring or tossing every 15 minutes or so, until they are browned and soft. (I went about 55 minutes, which I think was slightly too long for the eggplant - it was a bit dry when it came out of the oven, though it recovered nicely as it soaked up the dressing.)
  5. Let the roasted vegetables cool slightly while you prepare the other items.
  6. Combine the chickpeas, peppers, halloumi, and olives in a large bowl.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, harissa, cumin, and lemon juice to make a dressing.
  8. Stir the roasted vegetables and their juice into the chickpea mixture. Then stir the dressing and the cilantro into the salad.
  9. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve garnished with mint leaves and with warm pita bread on the side.

I think this would be equally good with a different mixture of roasted vegetables. Some roasted onions might be very nice, or chunks of zucchini. Perhaps even some root vegetables. I'll experiment when I next make it.

Posted by spaceling at 03:56 PM | TrackBack

October 29, 2006

Halloween Sweet Potato Salad

My department at work is having a Halloween potluck tomorrow. I decided that I wanted to come up with a dish in Halloween colors, so I decided on a sweet potato and black bean salad. (Pumpkin was another possibility, but I've done quite a bit of cooking with pumpkin recently - which I should discuss in another entry - and I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle another one. I've got a callus at the base of my right index finger from all the cleaver-chopping involved in breaking down my first pumpkin.)

I started with this Epicurious recipe, and tinkered. Some tinkering was by design - I added black beans, and decided to replace the red bell pepper with roasted pasilla peppers. Some was by accident - I came back from the grocery store and discovered that I'd forgotten to buy limes. I had one in the fridge, as well as a couple of small blood oranges - so I made the dressing with half lime juice, and half blood orange juice. This was a serendipitous substitution - the sweetness of the blood orange juice goes wonderfully with the sweet potato. (Regular orange juice would probably work just about as well.)

I set off the smoke alarm while roasting the pasilla peppers. (I did them straight on the burner. Next time, I'll use the broiler.) I think I need to be very very nice to Mr. Spaceling for the rest of today.

Read on for the recipe.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Cover the sweet potatoes with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 7 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender but not mushy. (When a fork goes in all the way easily, they're done.) Drain the sweet potatoes.
  2. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, roast the pasilla peppers by placing them under a broiler or over a gas flame and turning until they are charred all over. Put them in a paper bag and and let them steam for 10 minutes.
  3. Prepare the dressing: whisk together olive oil, cumin, chili powder, and lime and orange juices. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. When peppers have finished steaming, rub off the charred skins with your fingers. (Pasillas have kind of thin skins. It's kind of tricky to get all of the skin off. I settled for most of it.) Remove the seeds from the peeled peppers, and cut them into short strips.
  5. Combine the sweet potatoes, peppers, black beans, cilantro, scallions, and dressing in a large bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle in a little extra olive oil if necessary.
Makes a lot of servings.

The salad has been covered with plastic wrap and is now chilling in the fridge. I'll report on how it goes over tomorrow.

Posted by spaceling at 11:34 AM | TrackBack

September 03, 2006

Roasted Cipollini Onions

Tonight as part of dinner, I roasted the cipollini onions that I got at the farmers' market yesterday. I adapted a recipe from Andrea Chesman's The Roasted Vegetable. Cipollini onions are a small, flat onion that is fairly sweet.



  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Put the onions in a bowl of warm tap water for a couple of minutes. This makes them easier to peel. Then peel them.
  3. Toss the peeled onions with the olive oil, herbs and fennel seed. Spread them out in a lightly oiled roasting pan in a single layer.
  4. Roast for 15 minutes or so, then turn the onions over and roast for another 15 minutes.
  5. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar to taste, and serve.

I served these with a yummy zucchini and chick pea salad - recipe to follow.

Posted by spaceling at 07:52 PM | TrackBack

June 10, 2006

Provencal Green Bean and Tomato Salad

I have no idea if this dish actually resembles anything actually eaten in Provence. But I was going for a sort of Provencal combination of flavors. This makes a really quick and scrumptious side dish. It made me do the happy dance when I tasted it.


The Steps

  1. Blanch the green beans in a pot of simmering salted water for about 1 minute. Drain and run under cold water to cool. (Note: this produced green beans that were still very crunchy and raw tasting - it you want them more cooked, increase the time.)
  2. Toss the beans, tomatoes, shallot, herbs, and lemon juice together in a bowl. Drizzle in olive oil to taste. Crumble in the goat cheese, and toss again.

Posted by spaceling at 07:17 PM | TrackBack

March 11, 2006

Braised Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli rabe. A.k.a broccoli raab. A.k.a broccoli di rabe. A.k.a rapini. A.k.a yummy.

I know I've eaten broccoli rabe before. But I'd never cooked it before. And I don't remember it ever being this good.

This very simple recipe is adapted from Barbara Kafka's Vegetable Love.

The Ingredients

The steps

  1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a saute pan with a lid. Put it the broccoli rabe, and a generous sprinkling of red pepper flakes, and cook, turning with tongs until it is bright green and the leaves wilt.
  2. Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  3. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and cook about 8 minutes.
  4. Uncover, and boil off of the chicken broth a bit. (I was too impatient to let all the broth boil off, and a bit afraid of overcooking the broccoli rabe, so I just lifted the broccoli rabe out of the broth with tongs.

This was really delicious. I was bound to think so, since I've never met a leafy green I didn't like. However, Mr. Spaceling, who is somewhat suspicious of leafy greens and deeply suspicous of anything with the word "broccoli" in the name, pronounced this good. (I think part of the trick here is that broccoli rabe actually doesn't taste that much like broccoli. It actually resembles spinach in some ways.)

I'm definitely going to be cooking more broccoli rabe in the future.

Posted by spaceling at 07:00 AM | TrackBack

February 08, 2006

Refried Black Beans

One of my favorite things about cooking is when I get to make a dish that is really simple, and yet really good. I also love it when I cook something that I've only had in restaurants, and the homemade version comes out better. The refried black beans that I made last night were a wonderful instance of both of these.

I more or less followed the recipe for 'Fried Beans' in Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday. (Bayless quite correctly points out that the Spanish refritos, usually translated as "refried", more properly translates as "thoroughly fried".) I cut down on the quantities, since there were just two of us. We gobbled up every bite, so next time I may just go ahead and make a larger batch. But here's what I used:

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. (A nonstick skillet makes cleaning up a breeze - I recommend it.) When the oil is hot, toss in the garlic, and cook it for about a minute. Add the beans, and mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon. (Or with a fork, or a potato masher.) I mashed to a fairly coarse consistency, leaving a fair number of whole beans. Keep cooking, mashing, and stirring until the dish has the consistency of mashed potatoes.

These are so much better than the gluey mess of pinto beans you get at a run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant that it's not even funny. (You could make this recipe with pinto beans instead of black beans, and I expect it would still be yummy. Perhaps I'll try it sometime, though Mr. Spaceling professes a certain antipathy toward pinto beans. I suspect that this has to do with having eaten in too many run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurants.)

I served these with puerco a la Mexicana, another dish from Bayless's book, which was good enough to deserve an entry of its own. Stay tuned...

Posted by spaceling at 10:35 PM | TrackBack

January 26, 2006

Roasted Kabocha Squash

Kabocha squash is a winter squash that looks kind of like a small pumpkin, only it's green with light green stripes. I like squash quite a bit, but I rarely cook it, for some reason, and when I do, I usually go for the familiar old acorn squash. When I was at the Asian market last weekend, stocking up on instant miso soup, they had a big pile of kabocha, so I bought a couple. (I always go to the Asian supermarkets to buy instant miso soup, and I invariably leave with some item of produce I've never cooked before.)

I ended up roasting one of them, using a recipe from Sally Schneider's brilliant A New Way to Cook. It's pretty simple - cut the top and bottom off the squash, and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds. (I saved the seeds for toasting - I'll post on that later.) Cut the squash up into 2 inch thick slices.

Mix up some spices in a bowl: 1 tsp. ground coriander, 1 tsp. sweet paprika, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, a sprinkling of salt and a pinch of cayenne. (Sally's recipe also calls for caraway seeds, which I omitted because I don't have any.) Brush the squash slices with olive oil, and rub them all over with the spice mix. Stick them on a baking sheet, and put them in a 400 degree oven for half an hour.

Yum. Kabocha has a very creamy, slightly sweet flesh. It's less stringy than some kinds of squashes that I've had. It tastes a lot like sweet potato. In fact, if you blindfolded me and gave me a bite of roasted kabocha, I'm not sure that I'd know that it wasn't sweet potato. Maybe I'll do a side by side test sometime - I could roast kabocha and sweet potato together, and compare the flavors.

The sweet warm flavors of the kabocha played off really well against the salad I served with it, which was watercress, avocado, and kalamata olives, dressed with a very mustardy Dijon vinaigrette. Mmmm. It's funny - I've been eating watercress from the salad bar of the cafeteria at work, but I didn't realize that it was watercress until I spotted some in the supermarket labelled "watercress". It's funny - I always expected watercress to be seaweedier somehow. Silly, really.

I think next time I'll try a slightly different spice rub on the squash. I bet it would be brilliant with a touch of chipotle. (Of course, my culinary philosophy is that there is no food in the universe that wouldn't be improved by a touch of chipotle, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a squeeze of lemon, or a splash of soy sauce. Though I don't think there is any food that would benefit from all four at once. First person to send me a viable recipe for a chipotle-soy-lemon-balsamic vinaigrette wins a prize, okay?)

Tune in next time, when I'll toast some kabocha seeds.

Posted by spaceling at 09:50 PM | TrackBack