I got prematurely sick of roasted vegetables this season. Every food lover lauds the almost-black, crispy exterior and sweet interior of roasted broccoli and roasted sweet potatoes, all while not-so-quietly demeaning the taste and texture of vegetables boiled or steamed. I’m back on the roasted ones by now, don’t worry, it was a temporary case of over-it-ness, but in the couple weeks when I didn’t want to turn on the oven and arrange little pieces in one layer on a baking sheet, I rediscovered two techniques that I’d pushed to the side: steaming and stir-frying. In today’s dish, we’re going to do both.

First, steaming, the happiest and longest lost rediscovery. Vegetables get sweeter and somehow become more themselves after some time in the sauna. If you’re aching for a post-Thanksgiving healthy snack, I’d say look no further than a cup of steamed broccoli, cooked 5 minutes past the point of crunch, and maybe dressed with some thinned-out tahini. For squash, steaming makes cooking time quicker, and especially with delicata–which you don’t have to peel–sets you up for a fast stir-fry after, because the squash is already almost done.

You even get to do the rest of the prep work while the squash steams. Then comes the stir-fry action, when the thin slices of squash absorb the warmth of garlic, ginger, hot pepper, and scallions, becoming a sweet and spicy mess of vegetables that turns into a seriously good bowl lunch or dinner with some help from brown rice and toasted cashews.

Just so you know, this dish isn’t a super saucy one, because I wanted to taste the squash and the ginger and the heat, rather than the soy sauce. So this is a dry fry. Feel free to add much more wine or drizzle soy sauce at the end if you want something to moisten your rice.

Tadka-Topped Roasted Root Soup

Posted by on Monday Dec 1st, 2014

A tadka is a seared Indian spice mix that lends aroma and flavor to a dish. More a technique than a recipe, tadkas caught my attention because of the way they invert the culinary formulas I usually follow, where you sauté aromatics and sear meat at the beginning of cooking, then end with lower heat and a cold garnish, like a squeeze of lemon juice or a sprinkle of sesame seeds. With a tadka, you turn up the flame just before you’re done.

In Indian cooking, which has serious layers of flavor, you’ll also start with sautéing, you’ll just end with it too. But in this leftover-inspired soup, you rely on the takda one hundred percent to save your puréed soup from tasting like (really good) baby food.

When I made this, I had two excellent containers in the fridge: one held mixed roasted root vegetables (carrots, turnips, parsnips, yellow beets, and sweet potatoes), the other homemade chicken stock. I was thinking that maybe after Thanksgiving you have similar leftovers? If not, roasting a sheet of vegetables and simmering chicken stock is a great activity if you want to eat semi-healthfully in between holiday meals. So, yeah, when I went to make lunch I had both these things, and I decided to combine and conquer. Into the pot went a scoop of my already roasted vegetables and some stock, and while they were heating up together, I took out the blender for puréeing, but I also thought: maybe I’m going to need a little more here to feel satisfied.

 

So that’s when the tadka idea happened. I’ve been stocking ghee at home, the nutty clarified butter that heats up really hot without smoking and is perfect for crackling whole mustard and cumin seeds, crumbled red chilies, and garlic, bringing out the spices’ aromas as a good tadka should. I ladled the soup, made the tadka, then poured the contents of my frying pan, ghee and all, into the mug, and, as I’d hoped, the topping gave new life to each spoonful.

You can make this pureed soup with any kind of vegetables you have around (even if they’re not roasted). Having one kind of starchy vegetable in the combo will give the soup a little extra body–almost a creamy texture–but it’s not necessary. The real necessity is to examine your color choices, choosing roots that won’t combine to make an unappealing brownish-green color. If you use reds, skip greens, for example. For this soup’s hue, I stuck to whites (parsnip, turnip), yellows (the beets), and oranges (sweet potato).

How Expert Cooks Do Easy

Posted by on Friday Nov 28th, 2014

The Thanksgiving feast is hard to execute and tastes delicious. But that doesn’t mean that all delicious meals are hard, welcome news on this weekend after the biggest cooking event of the year.

A few weeks ago, I asked an assortment of my favorite chefs, cookbook authors, and bloggers for the dishes they make that are deceptively simple yet outrageously delicious. The ones that require little effort but deliver a huge payoff. I wanted to point you to it today, because once I’m done gorging on leftovers, that’s the kind of food I’ll want to make. See the dishes, from salt-crusted fish to crispy fried eggs, over on First We Feast.

A Chocolate Visit

Posted by on Wednesday Nov 26th, 2014

Over the summer, I got a chance to visit Hershey, PA, and tour The Hershey Company’s offices and research and development center—yes, the place where they come up with all the new chocolate and candy.

In NYC, it seems that every chocolate maker markets itself as artisan, local, and/or handmade—as do many purveyors of oils, cocktail mixers, pastries, and vegetables. That sometimes makes us wonder about companies that have been around longer and operate on bigger scales. But should we be? That’s one reason I was excited to visit Hershey: to see how food can be made in a larger format. If you follow me on instagram, you’ll notice I’ve been visiting a lot of producers over the past several months, getting a glimpse into the details of our massive food system, and this trip suited my meandering curiosity.

To be clear, this post—as well as three more posts and recipes to follow over the course of the next several months—is sponsored by the company. But as a generally nosy person, I was thrilled to see inside an international food company with such a rich American history.

In no particular order, here are some of the things I found most interesting from my visit to Hershey:

Cashew-Cranberry Turtles

Posted by on Monday Nov 24th, 2014

Natalie of Good Girl Style joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just cream and milk and sugar. Her take is especially welcome at Thanksgiving, where any baker can contribute a treat that all in attendance can happily eat. If you’d like a plated dessert in addition to the candy below, check out Natalie’s Baked Apples!

Cashews and cranberries herald the holiday season in these luxurious goodies. A delicious twist on the traditional pecan-caramel-chocolate turtles, these candies make the perfect addition to the Thanksgiving dessert table. Wrap them up in a pretty cellophane bag and they make the perfect hostess gift. That is, if you can keep from eating them all yourself in one sitting! This recipe is actually two-in-one, so you’ll get about 18 turtles and a basketful of caramels as a bonus to streamline your holiday baking.

A candy thermometer (you can pick one up at the grocery store) will make this recipe easier, but if you don’t have one you can use the old-fashioned cold-water method as described below. Be sure to stir constantly, but not whisk, to prevent the mixture from scorching. Be careful and don’t try to taste the caramel: seriously, it will burn you immediately!

Maitake, Leek & Bacon Dressing

Posted by on Thursday Nov 20th, 2014

If you had told me a year ago if I’d dream of a Thanksgiving stuffing made with mushrooms, I would have called you crazy. I’ve long had a thing against mushrooms (sorry), but that thing changed the moment I threw a handful of weird-looking chopped-up maitake mushrooms to a hot pan for a chicken recipe and smelled that smell. It was rich, nutty, irresistible.

Since I’m not in charge of the Thanksgiving dressing at our party–we make my grandma’s delicious recipe, which has both bread and chestnuts–I haven’t created any stuffings or dressings. Yet once I realized how simple the whole deal was–stuffing is just a delightful carb, meant to offset rich turkey skin and gravy–I had the best time layering rich challah cubes with as much flavor as my pantry and fridge could muster. Though bacon and those elegant maitakes co-star, leeks are a serious contender for best supporting player. Their saucy richness helps tie the bread, vegetables, and meat together.

If you plan to tote this dressing to someone else’s event, you can make it in advance up until the second half of the baking. Contribute it to someone else’s party covered in foil, then have your host reheat it til the top browns–the precise oven temperature and timing are less important than the browning.

I’ll have one more Thanksgiving idea for you on Monday. Stay tuned! (Here’s what we’ve covered so far.)

P.S. If Stove Top is your thing, have I got ideas for you! See them here.

Baked Apples

Posted by on Monday Nov 17th, 2014

Natalie of Good Girl Style joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just fruit, spices, and brown sugar. This Thanksgiving, be sure that gluten-free eaters have a delicious, not-too-decadent choice on the dessert table with today’s baked apples. Another option? Maple Crème Brûlée.

Oh, the goodness of apple season. All of the spices that smell like home melt into butter and brown sugar inside sweet yet tart apples. There couldn’t be a more comforting scent or taste, I don’t think. These baked apples are a healthier alternative to apple pie (no crust!) and are so much easier to put together. If you have a last-minute guest coming over, you most likely have all of the ingredients to make this tasty and cozy dessert. And then there’s the added bonus of a house that smells like autumn embodied.

You’ll want to look for firm apples that hold up well to baking, such as Macintosh. Soft apples that are good for eating, such as Red Delicious, won’t be firm enough to withstand baking alone. Be sure not to core the apples all the way through, as you want the bottom intact to hold onto all of the melting sugar and butter goodness. These are best served fresh from the oven with a large serving of vanilla ice cream. If you only need to serve two, this recipe can be easily halved.