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Sweet Broccoli Magic

17 Aug

I saw you wrinkle up your nose at that title up there. Give me five minutes–I’m gonna change your mind about this vegetable, even if you think it’s bitter or limp or boring. Nothing could be farther from the truth when you use a really easy, hands-off technique to cook it.

We had dinner at a friend’s house this summer; she always makes something that’s simple and amazing, and this time was no exception. Steak and a really good salad (I need to ask her if I can share her salad trick with y’all, come to think of it), and broccoli. But this broccoli was sweet and crunchy and unlike any I’d had before, and I went back for a big second helping of just that. It was that good.

Her secret? Roasting. You know how if you cook a chicken or Brussels sprouts with a little oil and salt in a scorching hot oven, magic happens? The outside of the goodies caramelizes while the inside stays nummy and juicy and amazing? Same thing with broccoli. And why it didn’t occur to me before now to try it is a mystery. Doing it with my new favorite ingredient–garlic oil–makes it just about the perfect vegetable (Confession: The first time I made this, I left the pan on the counter for about 10 minutes while the rest of dinner came together. And at the end of that 10 minutes, the broccoli was almost gone. I picked at it the whole time. Seriously good stuff, and it’s a vegetable! Sweet!). It’s crunchy and sweet and perfect.

Even if you think you don’t like broccoli…even if you’re used to that frozen stuff or boiled stems that flop over on your fork like a wet washcloth…try this. You’ll be a believer, I promise. It could not be simpler or more delicious. You need:

Broccoli florets (I use about two cups)

A tablespoon or two of garlic oil (use regular olive oil if you don’t have this)

About a quarter-teaspoon of salt or No-Salt substitute

(That’s it. See?)

Heat your oven to 425 degrees and spray a rimmed baking sheet with oil or your nonstick goodness of choice.

Lay your broccoli on the pan and drizzle it with the oil. Toss with your hands to get every bite a little bit of oil (the broccoli will not be coated). Sprinkle with salt, pop in the oven, and cook it about 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven, until the tops of the florets are brown and crunchified. Tell me that’s not the easiest, most delicious veggie you’ve ever had.

Steakhouse Mushrooms

22 May

We had steak for dinner last night (marinate flank steak all day in soy sauce, Worcestershire, lemon zest, garlic, honey, sherry, and red pepper flakes, blot it dry, spray it with a little olive oil, and broil it 3″ from the flame on a cooling rack in a baking sheet until the meat hits 145 degrees in the center, flipping once). I didn’t eat beef for a long time–12 years–and rarely missed it, but I’m glad it’s back in my diet. Lots of iron. Lots of yummy. Moderation.

The thing I did miss all that time, though was sauteed mushrooms. And I don’t know why on earth I didn’t just make some. They’re traditional to serve with steak, sure, but it’s so easy to whip some up and they go with so many things (I may or may not have had a bowl as a snack this week, all on their own) that I really should have made them much sooner. Spoon some over a burger. Serve them up with roast chicken. Snarf them down right out of the pan. Whatever suits your fancy.

These are super easy and very economical–use whatever cheapie mushrooms are in your grocery store. Buttons, baby bellas, whatever. You can make them with larger ‘shrooms too, but cut them up first. And they are delicious. Beefy tasting and yummy-savory-garlicky in a subtle kind of way, and the kind of thing you’d likely get aside your steak in one of those chi-chi restaurants none of us can afford.

Pull out your pan and a few pantry staples, kids (speaking of, my kids wouldn’t touch these. Fine with me–pile my plate high, picky people). You’re going to love these mushrooms. You need:

1 pint mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

About 1 tsp olive oil

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

1 clove garlic, very finely minced (or a Dorot frozen garlic cube, which is what I used)

salt

Put a small saucepan or saucier over a medium burner and let it heat up for a few minutes. Pour in the olive oil and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan. Dump in your mushrooms, hit ’em with a pinch or two of salt, and stir for a second. Then leave them alone for stretches of about 5 minutes. You’re going to see a lot of liquid in the pan and think things are going wrong, but have patience. After a little while, your mushrooms are going to start to brown and then they’re going to soak up all that liquid like magic.

Once your mushrooms get a nice light brown on them, stir in the Worcestershire and soy sauce, and then stir in five-minute increments again. Your mushrooms are going to soak up the sauce and then start to caramelize on the bottom of the pan. Once they are a deep golden brown, stir in your garlic and keep everything moving constantly for about two minutes–you want to get rid of the sharp raw garlic taste, but you don’t want to burn it. Take it off the heat and sing a little song to the mushroom gods, because this, my friends, is heaven.

Leftover Magic: Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes as Breakfast

5 Apr

See that up there? It doesn’t look like much, I know. But break the eggs and stir it all together and you have one of the most decadent-tasting, satisfying breakfasts I know of, and it’s a healthy way to start off your day. Swear.

I don’t have a cute family story to tell you about this one–my kids won’t touch this. Which is totally fine with me, because it’s one of my favorites and their disinterest means more for me, quite frankly, without anybody asking me to share. We moms share very well, but once in awhile, it’s nice to have something delicious that’s only touched by your own fork.

That said, we’re going to move straight onto the recipe, which is the best part of this–it’s so stinkin’ easy and such a great way to empty out some leftovers that I can’t wait to share. You need:

Leftover honey roasted sweet potatoes. Click on that if you need the recipe for those. I’d say about a half-cup, but any amount will work.

Eggs

Olive oil

That’s it.

Heat a small pan over medium heat and drizzle it with a little olive oil to keep things from sticking. Stir around your leftover potatoes until they warm through–keep them moving for a few minutes so the honey doesn’t burn.

Once they’re warm, spread them out (or bunch them up, depending how many you have) into a solid layer. Very carefully break your egg or eggs on top. Lower the burner to low, and pop a lid on that puppy.

Wait about three minutes and then start checking your eggs for doneness–you want them cooked through but with runny yolks. Once you get there, slide the whole beautiful shebang onto a plate, cut the yolks open, and smile because this, my friends, is good stuff.

Deli-Style Potatoes and Onions

29 Mar

I was watching Anne Burrell yesterday (my current favorite TV chef–food is fun, yo!)  making this very fancy-sounding French dish with sole, and she said, “This is French. French, of course, is code for ‘lots of butter.'”

As luck would have it, I’d made potatoes and onions the day before, and told my kids they were deli-style. Which is a phrase I use the same way my girl Anne uses French. Code. Butter. Salt. Decidedly not healthy. But fine for a treat every now and then.

Side note: Yes, I mean that. Every once in a great while, you should eat something that’s chock full of unhealthy, delicious ingredients. I do not mean chemicals. Don’t go using butter and sugar substitutes or fat-free this or that, because all of it’s been crammed full of crappy chemicals you can neither pronounce, define, nor guarantee aren’t eating you from the inside out while you eat it the other way ’round. Real food, boys and girls. The stuff your great-grandparents lived on back when we all moved enough to justify it.  Every so often.

These are not healthy. But I had a bag full of potatoes and a big Vidalia onion laying around, and this is one of the few side dishes my kids beg for. We, my friends, have been known to drive an hour away to get deli potatoes like this, because there’s only one restaurant we know of that does them perfectly right and it’s in Annapolis, which is a heck of a long way to go for breakfast, but you have to do what you have to do sometimes.

So. Occasional treat. Which is FINE. Two or three times a year. Without guilt.

Onward.

This is a pretty basic dish: you take potatoes and onions and you cook them up in butter and salt until they get all golden brown and delicious, and then you stuff yourself with them because they are just that good. They should definitely be on your list of 10 things to have on a deserted island. And your kids…let me tell you, your kids are going to think their real mother or father was kidnapped by aliens and replaced with an amazing chef-mom or dad, and you will not hear a peep out of them for the entire meal because they’ll be cramming these amazing ‘taters into their mouth like the world might end tomorrow, before anybody else takes what might even remotely be part of their share. These potatoes are, in a word, a miracle. The deli angels brought them to earth or something. I promise.

Ready to treat yourself? Of course you are. You need:

Potatoes. I use regular white baking potatoes, about 1/2 large or 2-3 baby per person

Onion. One large Vidalia.

Butter. Don’t even ask.

Salt to taste.

Pepper if you want it.

Bring a big pot of water to boil on the stove. While that happens, wash your potatoes and slice them into about 1/4 inch slices. Leave the skins on.

Once the water boils, dump your potatoes in and let them cook about five minutes, until you can pierce them with a fork easily but before they soften up and fall apart completely. Drain them really well–you don’t want any water in the next steps.

While the potatoes boil, heat a large skillet over medium until it’s really good and hot–a too-cool pan will steam your potatoes, which is not at all what we want here. Cut your onion in half through the stem, and then cut each half-onion into slices across their grains (you should end up with half-circle slices). Plop about two tablespoons of butter in your hot pan, use your fingers to separate those half-circles into onion strips, and cook them until they start to soften, adding a pinch or two of salt.

Once your potatoes drain, mix them up with the onions in the pan. Here’s where this gets a little odd, but trust me: To get them golden crunchy brown, you want to smoosh them down onto the pan. To do that, carefully lay a dinner plate on top of the potatoes and onions, and weight it down with a big can of tomatoes or something from your pantry–don’t use a plate that touches the sides of the pan, or it’ll crack. Yours should look like this:

Every three or four minutes, use an oven mitt to remove your can and plate (the plate will be hot!), give the veggies a stir, and put everything back together. If the pan gets dry, add more butter.

When the potatoes look crunchy brown and yummy, it’s time to eat and soak up the accolades. Once in awhile. Which is fine.

Baked Eggs Florentine

28 Mar

You know those mornings when you wish you could snap your fingers and have a healthy, hot, delicious breakfast appear? This is kind of like that. You dump everything into a ramekin and toss it in the oven, and voila. Eggs and vegetables that magically bake together into something that’s sophisticated and yummy, and jam-packed with nutrients to boot.

This is a riff off the baked eggs I posted not long after this blog was born. That’s still a great recipe, but I had a bunch of spinach and mushrooms in the fridge this week. They, I decided, looked like breakfast. And so it was. The result reminds me of something you’d get in a fancy restaurant–chi-chi places love putting eggs over salad–and it’s perfect for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. If you have a bunch of ramekins, you could do this for a party–they’re quick and easy and the single portions are perfect for a late morning gathering. And because they’re low-carb, they should work for just about everyone you’d want to entertain.

I am making this again today, gang. It is that good. For one serving, you need:

A small handful of spinach leaves, rinsed well

Two mushrooms, sliced or broken

Two eggs

A pinch of Parmesan cheese (omit if you want, but I wouldn’t)

Olive oil

Other veggies you have laying around–tomatoes, broccoli, onion, asparagus would all be nummy.

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray your ramekin with olive oil. Put it onto a small baking pan to make moving it into and out of the oven easier.

Smoosh your spinach leaves into the dish–it’ll cook down quite a bit, so put in a little more than you think looks reasonable. Give them a small drizzle of oil, and top with the other veggies. On top of that, carefully break your eggs.

Sprinkle with a touch of Parmesan cheese (it’s salty–you don’t need extra salt) and pepper if you so desire. Bake it for about 10 – 15 minutes, depending on your oven; take it out when it looks slightly undercooked, because it’ll keep cooking in the dish for a minute or two after you take it out of the hot box. Grab a spoon and enjoy.

Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

22 Mar

This is my favorite veggie dish of all time. Bar none. It’s sweet, it’s comforting, it’s packed with nutrients, and it’s super simple. I had a big bowl of it for lunch yesterday and I may well have another for dinner tonight. The leftovers are delicious heated up or cold, and don’t even get me started about recycling it as a breakfast dish with a poached egg on top (oh yummmmm).

You should make it, and that’s really all I have to say about it. Really–words don’t do it justice.

You need:

Sweet potatoes (about 1 per person)

Honey (1 tbsp per potato)

Olive oil (1 tbsp per potato)

Salt to taste (I use about 1/4 tsp per potato)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray it with olive oil or your nonstick goodness of choice. Do not skip this step–you will be very sad when your nuggets of sweet potato deliciousness stick like cement later.

Peel your potatoes and cut them into 2-inch pieces (I half them lengthwise, then cut each half into a half lengthwise, and then cut them into slices cross-wise). Plop them into a bowl and stir them up with the oil, honey, and salt. Lay them onto your nonsticked sheet pan with their flat sides down–they’re gonna get all brown and crunchy against the pan, and you want the biggest side to do that because it is so stinkin’ delicious that your taste buds will throw their own little party right there in your mouth.

Slide your pan into the oven and let those babies roast for about 20 minutes, until their bottoms start to crunch up. Flip them over, give them another 15 minutes or so, and serve.

 

Roasted Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

6 Mar

Hi gang!

It’s been awhile–sorry about that (I really am…I miss you guys). You know those weeks there’s so much going on that you can’t breathe? That was last week. Cereal for dinner every night kind of stuff. But it’s over and I’m inhaling and exhaling and cooking again.

I spent last weekend in Las Vegas with a group of friends–we’ve never done a big trip away and it was super fun. By the end, we called it our food tour. Phenomenal restaurants in Vegas–I ate food from Thomas Keller, Todd English, and (of course) Michel Richard, and a lot of local chefs who really have it going on behind the stove. One of the things we enjoyed was roasted brussel sprouts, and I have not been able to get them out of my head ever since. When I saw a bunch at the grocery store yesterday, I bought them, brought them home, rinsed them off, and stared them down until we came to an agreement: high heat and balsamic vinegar.

You can almost not go wrong roasting vegetables. Cooking them quickly at a high temperature caramelizes them and makes them sweet and crunchy; if you’ve only had steamed asparagus, you really should roast some (same method we’re about to share with the sprouts), because you won’t believe the difference in flavor. And roasting does beautiful things to brussel sprouts. These are like popcorn–I swiped a few off the pan every time I walked past it for the entire time they cooled down. Addictive. Sweet and crunchy with a hint of bitter inside. Delish.

I tossed mine (the ones I didn’t snarf down ahead of time, anyway) into a salad at lunchtime, but these make a fantastic side dish or snack–and I don’t snack on vegetables, so you know they’re good. I hope you’ll give them a shot, especially if you think you don’t like sprouts. They’re a game changer. You need:

1 bunch brussel sprouts (fresh; frozen will get soggy)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

a sprinkle of salt or salt substitute

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with olive oil.

Cut the stems off your sprouts, and then cut the sprouts in half lengthwise. In a bowl, toss them with the oil, vinegar, and salt. Lay them on the baking sheet in a single layer, pop them into the oven, and roast them for 35 minutes, turning them halfway through. Get addicted.

Use ‘Em Up Tomatoes au Gratin

30 Aug

We were supposed to go to a party on Saturday–a baby shower for my husband’s cousin who is very happily expecting. Baby showers make me happy, and I gleefully shopped for the perfect gift and then the perfect dish to contribute to the event. It was to be my tomato-cucumber salad, as produce is at its amazing height where I live and I have a big mess o’ basil growing in a box on my deck.

Mother nature apparently shares not my love of showers. While I was wrapping up a little something to welcome the new person to the world, she was wrapping up a hurricane. And then she flung it right up the east coast to my house. When Saturday morning arrived, I sadly put my perfect outfit back on its hanger, called the party-giver to offer my regrets, and stowed my basil and other herbs in the garage to wait it out with our lawn furniture, toys, and random bits of outside life we didn’t want blown away.

That, my dear friends, left me with a mess of tomatoes to use up. And what do we do when we have veggies and need a little pick-me-up?

We toss carbs on top. Carbs and olive oil and garlic, and we toast it up under the broiler to make the most amazing, simple side dish (my lunch today, but who’s really counting?) you can imagine. Your house will smell like Italy and your mouth will be delighted.

This is so good that I’m going to stop rambling on and tell you how to make it, and then you should, right now, while the little red fruits are still at their peak. Go on. You need:

Tomatoes, cut into quarter-inch slices

Italian-style bread crumbs–I used about a third of a cup

Garlic powder–I used about a teaspoon

Grated Parmesan cheese–I used about two tablespoons.

Olive oil

Salt

Pre-heat your broiler, to low if you have a choice. Spray a small casserole dish with olive oil or nonstick spray. Layer your tomatoes in the dish, in a single layer as much as possible, overlapping where necessary. Sprinkle them with a touch of salt and a drizzle of oil.

In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, and garlic powder. Lay that mixture on top of your tomatoes until they’re just peeking out. Drizzle a bit more olive oil on top and put the dish under the broiler until the crumbs are brown and toasty. Enjoy.

(My amounts are inexact–it depends on your dish size and the number of tomatoes you use. But this is a perfect playing recipe–you can’t possibly mess it up. Guesstimate, adjust, and have at it.)

 

Don’t forget my giveaway!! It’s super easy!

1) “Like” Playing With My Dinner on Facebook and post a note on the wall saying hi so I know you’re new in town, or

2) Convince a friend to “like” the blog and post a note telling me you referred them, and…

You can win a $30 giftcard to Williams-Sonoma! Buy yourself a super fun present to have even more fun by the stove! Like the blog or refer a friend by September 1 to enter!

Trick Your Canned or Frozen Corn

23 Aug

Once or twice a month, you’ll find my family at our favorite restaurant, enjoying fajitas, burritos, and, for me, a yummy barbecue chicken chopped salad. I’m not a huge salad lover, truth be told, but the combination of barbecued chicken and fresh greens and veggies is among my favorite meals.

We took the kids to the beach last weekend and, sandy and exhausted, stopped at a Panera for dinner on our way home. They have a barbecue chicken chopped salad on the menu, and having stuffed myself with fried yumminess and caramel popcorn earlier in the day, I ordered it–fresh and light sounded wonderful. This salad lacked the chopped avocado of my favorite, but kicked its butt in the flavor department. It took me a minute, but I figured out the difference.

Roasted corn. Just a bit of browning on the corn kernels boosted their flavor in an amazing way–I really couldn’t believe the difference. And so I tried it today while making my own barbecue chopped salad for lunch, with the same effect.

It’s very simple. Preheat your broiler (to low, if yours lets you choose a temperature). Drain canned or frozen (and thawed) corn and spread it on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Pop that under the broiler for about five minutes, or until it starts to brown along the tops and edges:

Turn on your exhaust fan. It’s a little smokey.

Once you have some brown on the corn, take it out of the oven, cool on the baking sheet, and toss it into your salad. You won’t believe how good this simple trick is!

(You can absolutely do this with fresh corn, but it’s a great trick for frozen or canned when fresh isn’t at its peak.)

 

Don’t forget my giveaway!! It’s super easy!

1) “Like” Playing With My Dinner on Facebook and post a note on the wall saying hi so I know you’re new in town, or

2) Convince a friend to “like” the blog and post a note telling me you referred them, and…

You can win a $30 giftcard to Williams-Sonoma! Buy yourself a super fun present to have even more fun by the stove! Like the blog or refer a friend by September 1 to enter!

Oven-Steamed Sweet Veggies

1 Aug

I stole this idea from an Eagle Scout. Which may make me a Very Bad Person, but so be it. It had to be done.

My son and I spent most of a week at Cub Scout camp in Goshen, Va., this July, and among the highlights of what was a truly spectacular, amazing week (I love, love, LOVE Scouts–best organization for boys and their families ever, in the history of the world) was this super simple veggie dish.

Most of our meals were served in the camp mess hall, you see, and many of those were, sadly, questionable as actual “food” goes. But the third night of camp was “foil packet night,” which was when each den received ingredients and aluminum foil and had at it with their campfires. Dinner that night was slightly chaotic, very late, and probably a wee bit dangerous, but terribly fun and actually delicious, mostly thanks to our den leader who’d done this before and came to camp prepared with spices and such.

I’ve adapted this to an oven, but you can chuck it on your own campfire or on your grill with the same results. The photo above is of the dish ready to cook; I was too busy eating the result to photograph it, you see. It’s sweet and soft and wonderful, and I ate it both as a side and as a topping for roasted chicken; each bite of chicken got a little onion and carrot on top, and it was stupifyingly good and comforting.

Grab your ingredients and give this a shot. You need:

1 onion, sliced into half-rings

1 carrot, sliced into discs or a few handfuls of baby-cut carrots

About 1 tbsp butter

About 2 tbsp brown sugar

A pinch of thyme or Italian seasoning

A pinch of salt

Heat your oven to 425 degrees (or so–cook less time at higher heat, and more time at lower), or preheat your campfire or grill. Line a small baking dish with foil, or spread two pieces of foil out on your work surface, overlapping them in the middle, to make a plate of sorts.

Lay your onion and carrot slices/pieces on the foil.

Cut the butter into tiny cubes and mix them up with the veggies. Add the brown sugar, toss everything together, and bring the foil up over the sides to make a bowl. Gently pour in a few tablespoons of water (you want steam, not boiling, so not too much), and fold the foil onto itself to make a packet, sealing up all the sides and the top. Put that into the oven or onto your fire/grill, and cook about 20 minutes, or until the veggies are soft and the onions have a golden hue to them.

BE CAREFUL opening the foil, y’all!! Steam is going to rush out the top and you do not want a burn!

Enjoy.

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