Braised Kale, Turnips, and Beans

So. For the past week, every time I’m in the kitchen at the same time as Chester, he’s been asking me of what I’m making: “is it vegan?” And I say, “Yes Chester, its vegan… until I add the cheese!!!” To which he says… “NOT VEGAN!” But it did make me think about what I cook. And my conclusion is that 90% of what I make could very well be vegan.. if I didn’t add the cheese. Or if I used oil instead of butter. Meaning that, I don’t feel like meat, dairy, or eggs are the main player in my meals – often I try to think of them as garnish. Now, if I’m making a quiche – I’m going to use eggs. Especially when the chicks start laying! But I know that pizza is just as good without cheese (I just happen to like it better with cheese). And that many times, the addition of non-vegan ingredients can definitely be omitted without being missed. So Chester, in honor of you, I decided that I would post something entirely vegan.. if only so I could say, “yes Chester, it IS VEGAN!! Leave me alone!” 🙂

Matt and I have both been getting lunch delivered once a week from Organic Living SB, a lunch delivery service that only uses local ingredients and accommodates any dietary restrictions. We both get the vegan option – for me, I like to see how other people use their creativity in cooking delicious meals that don’t involve meat. I’ve been really impressed so far! Last week, my lunch was a stir fry of cashews, broccoli and turnips over wild rice with a very subtle sauce. The turnips really surprised me – I actually liked them. Which is more than I can say for the vast majority of the experiences I’ve had cooking them. So I decided to get a bunch of turnips at the market, and see what I could do!

My search for inspiration as usual started out at Tastespotting, where I found a recipe for braised kale, white beans, and turnips (I will post the link below). It sounded like a nice combination, and since I also had picked up some heirloom dried beans at the market, and we always have kale in the garden, I decided to give it a go. In my vegan quest, I knew I could eliminate the bacon and chicken broth, and instead use vegetable broth and add a bit of extra salt. I think if I made it again, I would use less apple cider vinegar and sugar, but I may wait until tomorrow (like chili, apparently braised dishes taste better the second day) to make my final verdict.

Part two of my cooking adventure for the night involved a quick crusty bread. I knew I didn’t have time or patience for a yeasted bread, so instead I found a recipe for a beer bread from Farmgirl Fare – something I’ve never tried before, but promised crusty results. And even better- no eggs or butter in the batter! Done deal. I’ve come across Farmgirl Fare before, and I really like the concept- similar to my own, yet so much more detailed. A great resource! The bread turned out perfectly, too! I would imagine you could substitute fizzy seltzer water with the same result if you don’t want to use beer. Or, just go buy your favorite crusty bread…

Braised Kale, Turnips, and Beans (my modified version. For the original, see here)

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb Turnips, ends and tops trimmed off, cut into quarters about the size of your thumb
2 cups vegetable broth
Less than 1/8 cup Apple cider vinegar (or more, depending on taste)
2 cups cooked beans (I used the blue heirlooms, but white would be a great easy find)
1 to 1 1/2 large bunches of Kale, washed, stems discarded, and leaves roughly chopped
1/2 Tablespoon sugar (taste first, then add if you think you want it)
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 lemon, juiced
Salt and Pepper

Place a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, onion, and turnips to the pot. Stir and cook until the vegetables are softened and beginning to turn brown on the edges. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Pour the vegetable broth and apple cider vinegar into the pot, and stir while scraping the bottom to deglaze any browned bits stuck to the pot. Next add the beans and kale. Cover the pot with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Braise the kale for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are tender and wilted and the turnips are cooked through.

Once the kale is tender, remove the lid and add the hot sauce and lemon juice. Stir and taste the liquid. Add salt, pepper and sugar (if desired). Turn off the heat and serve the braised kale with slices of thick crusty bread to sop up the liquid.

Beer Bread with Fresh Herbs (original recipe found here)

3 cups organic all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder

Several sprigs of oregano, rosemary, and thyme, snipped up
12 ounces beer (or seltzer water)

Optional glaze: 1 egg & 2 teaspoons water, beaten

Heat oven to 375°. Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and herbs in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in beer and mix just until combined. Batter will be thick. Spread in a greased 8-inch loaf pan, brush with egg glaze if desired, and bake until golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool 10 more minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Flavor note: Instead of herbs you could use a variety of other mix-ins. The original recipe has many ideas if you need inspiration!

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Eggplant Sandwich (…and meet the chickens!)

This past week we’ve been experiencing torrential downpours that break in the afternoon for stormy sunlit landscapes. Frothing large waves break against the bluffs, and a whole new array of  bright rain-drenched colors emerge.  I spread a few carrot and beet seeds in the garden, hoping that the wet soil will spur some germination.

One of the best parts about all this wet weather, though, was going on an excursion to play in the snow that all those storms left behind in the mountains near Santa Barbara! I might not be able to rock climb, run, or ride a bike yet (thank you, broken collarbone), but I can definitely still hike. Thank goodness!!

Some of my eggplant bushes are still holding on through the winter, and I picked a lovely Rosa Bianca that I decided would be my lunch. Leftover ciabatta bread, a bunch of basil, goat cheese, and roasted peppers completed my inspiration. This sandwich is the culmination of all my favorite ingredients, taking the best from each eggplant sandwich I’ve experienced at different restaurants (for some reason, I’m always drawn to it on a menu).

Eggplant sandwiches for 2

1 small eggplant, sliced into 1/4″ thick slices (Sprinkle with salt and let sit at least 10 minutes before blotting off moisture)

Roasted red peppers (I used bottled)

Goat cheese

Ciabatta bread (2-4 slices depending on how hungry you are)

Olive oil

Salt/pepper

Pesto:

2 cups basil leaves

2 cloves garlic

1/4 c olive oil

1/4 c parmesan cheese (may be omitted)

1/4 c pine nuts (or walnuts)

Salt to taste

To make the pesto, combine ingredients in a food processor or use an immersion blender. Set aside.

Coat eggplant slices in olive oil. Saute eggplant in cast iron pan for ~5-8 minutes. Next coat the bread slices with olive oil and saute until toasted. Sprinkle bread with salt and pepper. Spread goat cheese on bread, then pesto, then top with roasted peppers and eggplant slices for an open face sandwich.

On a completely different note…

A few weeks ago, we made some significant progress in the conversion of our property into a food forest… we now have chickens! On January 7, we expanded our little family by 12 chicks, all of whom have been steadily growing, eating, and making a mess! But we love them dearly, and they provide a lot of entertainment. They’ll be ready to move outside into their coop at 6 weeks, when they have all their feathers in. But until then, they have their very own cardboard mansion in our spare bedroom. Many thanks to all my local chicken friends for their advice, loans of equipment, etc.! Sometime this summer we should start getting fresh eggs… I can’t wait!

(For those of you interested in the breeds, we have 1 Australorp, 2 Rhode Island Reds, 1 Silver-laced Wyandotte, 1 Ameracauana, 1 Golden Sex-link, 3 bantam Sebrights and 3 bantam Ameracaunas.)

New Year’s Eve Feast

Looking back over the past year, I think it very fitting that our New Year’s Eve dinner was a gorgeous, delicious representation of our garden-grown treasures. We’ve spent a lot of time working out there, making the extra effort to eat food that is grown close to home. And I am proud to say that it is now second nature for me to plan what I eat around what I am growing and what is available! If that’s not an accomplished goal for 2009, I don’t know what is. And it definitely sets the bar high for 2010!

Looking around our winter garden, I am often struck by all the shades of green I see, from the dark evergreen of the swiss chard to the purple-green of the cabbage plants. But today I was amazed at how many other vibrant colors are out there- burgundy, bright blue, even a reddish orange/yellow marigold that came to life after its companion tomato plants died. The wonders of a garden never cease…

One of my best friends from Philadelphia recently moved out to California with her boyfriend, so we elected to spend New Years Eve at our house. I broke my collarbone on Christmas, so I’m trying to take it easy. I am left-handed, and my left arm is in a sling (to keep my collarbone immobilized), so I can’t do all the things I normally do… including cooking! Which meant I got to boss my sous-chefs around (Nicely, of course).

Fortunately I’ve made all these dishes before in some form or another, so it came together smoothly: mixed greens with roasted beets, celery, and goat cheese (previous post here); Israeli couscous with kale/chard/beet greens and roasted carrots (previously posted here); and roasted butternut and acorn squash with a spicy/sweet spice rub (see recipe below). It felt great to eat such a variety of vegetables for dinner, all prepared in such a way that their textures and flavors played off each other so you never got bored! To me, that’s a true measure of success.

Happy Healthy New Year! I wish you the best in your pursuit of locally grown goodness, and hope you are inspired to start growing your own food on some scale this year!

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Squash (original recipe found here)

1/2 small to medium sized kabocha, butternut, or acorn squash

3 Tbs brown  sugar, plus a bit more for sprinkling

1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper or hot chili powder, more or less to taste

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1 Tbs soy sauce

Oil for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet or two with silicon baking liner or parchment paper.

De-seed and cut the squash into slices about 1/2 – 1″  inch thick.

Combine all the dry ingredients. Toss the squash slices in this until coated thoroughly. Add the soy sauce and toss

well again.

Spread the slices in a singler layer on the baking sheet. Drizzle over them with the oil, and optionally sprinkle more sugar on them. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn over, drizzle with more oil and sprinkle more sugar, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Toss torn lettuce with a bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar. Top with chopped celery, crumbled goat cheese, and roasted beet slices. Cilantro would also be a nice addition.