Pasta, Kale and Squash

Serves 4

 

Once upon a time, I would get home from work and begin the process of making homemade pasta.  It’s a simple process involving only eggs, flour and maybe a touch of water or even olive oil.  Homemade pasta is always worth it…if you have the time to invest in the wonderful tradition.  Ah, time!  Time is a luxury that comes in spurts these days.  Claire Berlin is on the verge of walking which means a whole lot is going on in our home and time in the kitchen is more limited than usual.  Instead of seeing it as an obstacle, I see it as an opportunity to think quick and cook quicker!  Delicious meals, nutritious meals need not take hours of preparation and deliberation.  Some do and that’s fine, (I look forward to those, too), but when you don’t have it, you can still eat well and feel good.

This dish was inspired by my love of homemade ravioli and around this time of year, that ravioli is usually filled with some sort of squash.  This is something like a deconstructed version.  There’s something special about the flavor of squash, the right amount of parmigiano and the sweet but bold flavor of good pasta.  I’d been reluctant to post a pasta dish because of the now ubiquitous demand for gluten-free products.  The rise of celiac disease and gluten intolerance has brought to light the many delicious alternatives to wheat based products.  And I make an effort to balance my gluten consumption with all those delicious alternatives.  Still, it’s pretty tough to beat a yummy bowl of semolina pasta!  And it doesn’t have to be all bad, either!

Durum semolina wheat is prized for its high protein and high gluten.  This helps keep the dough elastic yet maintaining its shape.  Semolina wheat is also high in beta-carotene which is an important anti-oxidant.  Whole durum will give you many of the benefits of whole grains such as fiber, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.  However, because it is ground into a flour, you lose the “intactness” of the whole grain, i.e. the germ, bran and endosperm, though they are still present because the flour isn’t further refined (as is the case with white flour).

So, having some pasta isn’t a bad thing, especially if it’s organic and as whole as possible…or as unrefined as possible.  It’s also ideal to have it once in a while as opposed to everyday.  (I know many people who get stuck on this pasta-cycle.)

Incidentally, my new favorite store-bought pasta is Montebello, an artisan and organic pasta.

Buon Appetito!

You’ll need:

4T extra-virgin olive oil,

4-5 fresh large sage leaves, whole

1 1/2 C butternut squash, diced (roughly)

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1/2 red chili pepper, thinly sliced* (Use of seeds is entirely up to you…I chose to forgo the little buggers for this recipe.)

1 bunch Lacinato Kale, stemmed and sliced

1/2 lb organic, semolina durum wheat pasta

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

To make:

1.  Place 2 T of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add sage leaves and squash and cook until just tender, about 12-15 minutes.  Set aside.

2. In the same pan, add remaining olive oil, garlic, and chili and saute for 2-3 minutes before adding kale.  Saute until kale is just wilted and a beautiful, vibrant green color.

3.  In the meantime, get the pasta cooking according to the instructions on the box.  You’re aiming for al dente pasta, cooked but firm.  (Overcooked pasta is not pleasant at all!)  Drain and drizzle with another T of olive oil.

4.  When everything is done, toss together in a bowl and serve immediately, topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

5.  Enjoy!

*The chili is divine in this dish.  The heat plays so well with the sweetness of the butternut squash.  I know a few former classmates who will love my new found love for chili peppers!

Autumn’s Chili

Serves 6

The chilly breeze of autumn has brought with it many cravings for fall’s foods.  The oven’s been on baking and roasting a few times already and soups and stews have already made appearances at the dinner table.  This particular dish is a favorite.  And, it’s not just because it’s delicious and wholly satisfying (it’s both to the nth degree), but because it is unassuming, too.  It seems time consuming, but it isn’t.  It seems spicy, but that part is up to you.  It seems hearty and meaty; it is and it isn’t.  This is one dish that even my most ardent carnivore friends would forgive for not having ANY animal protein in it, as they ask for seconds.  They’ve even confessed that meat would “ruin” THIS chili.  I’m not going to argue with that. We like this one just the way it is.

It should be noted that I have no problem with meat.  Check out my Grass-fed Burger recipe if you don’t believe me.  I just don’t think that meat needs to be part of EVERY meal and we have so many options when it comes to animal protein that it’s nice to have an alternative if you choose to forgo meat once in a while.  I’m not espousing vegetarianism, I am afterall a recovering vegetarian, but there are several health merits to reducing your meat consumption while increasing vegetables, whole grains, beans, etc.  Enter, Chili!

What’s most special about this particular version is the use of real red chili peppers.  (When I’m in a pinch, I often add a pinch of cayenne or use red pepper flakes.)  Despite the fact that peppers are a notorious nightshade, (see Late Summer Ratatouille for more on that), this little pepper has several health benefits, too.  Peppers are famous for their capsaicin, that wonderful little quality that gives peppers its pungence and heat.   It’s also responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects it has on the body.  “Red chili peppers, such as cayenne, have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body’s ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots.”¹  Those are few good pluses for our cardiovascular system!  Peppers are also loaded with beta carotene which helps boost immunity.  Remember that goody, “eat the rainbow”, well red is a good place to start!  Eating these spicy gems will clear your congestion and benefit your gut by killing bacteria that may be hanging around.

Remember that peppers and tomatoes are nightshades and should be balanced with a bit of dairy (not to mention it’s a bit cooling and is a nice contrast to the heat) so be sure to add that dollop of sour cream or some shredded cheddar.  Your taste buds won’t argue with either!

You’ll need:

3/4 C kidney beans, soaked overnight then drained and rinsed

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced (Use of seeds is entirely at your discretion, but be cautious because the heat sneaks up on you!)

1 largish carrot, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/2 t paprika

2 T tomato paste

3 large heirloom tomatoes, diced

1 bay leaf

1 C butternut squash, medium dice (You’ll have plenty leftover!)

8 C water or vegetable stock

2-3 T fresh herb of choice, rough chop (Cilantro is my default herb here, but parsley, sage or basil all work wonderfully here, too!)

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Creme fraiche or sour cream for garnish

To make:

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook onions for about 5 minutes until softened and then add garlic.  Cook for 3 more minutes.

2. Add chili pepper, carrots, celery and paprika and cook for another 3-4 minutes and then add tomato paste.  The tomato paste will serve to deglaze the goodies that have been cooking.

3. Add tomatoes, stir and cook for another few minutes.  Finally, add kidney beans, bay leaf and water or stock.  Cook the chili over medium heat for about 45 minutes.  Half way through the cooking, add the butternut squash.

4. The chili is done when the beans are soft.  Add the herb of your choice and adjust seasoning to taste.  Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.  (I didn’t have either so I topped with an avocado creme and shredded cheddar.  Yum, yum!)

5. Enjoy!  With a thick piece of sour dough bread or a baguette and you’ll enjoy 2 times as much!

¹http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=29

Spicy Kale Chips

Yields a bunch of chips (about 3 cups)

That it’s taken me this long to write about kale is a mystery.  It’s arguably my favorite green and it is a staple in my kitchen.  Whether I saute it with garlic, nuts and dried cranberries (or solo!), shred it in soups, make pesto with it, eat raw in salads, or as in this recipe, make it into a ridiculously addicting and nutritious snack, kale always seems to find a way to sneak its way onto our plates from breakfast to dinner.

Rebecca Wood says that kale is the grandmother of the cabbage family.  When I think of that statement, I think of old, wise, strong and hearty and indeed kale is all of those things.  Kale is strong enough to endure frost and snow and its flavor is even sweeter after all that work.  Wait, kale is sweet?  Yes, kale is sweet but lightly, so that the bitter and pungent flavors play well with the sweetness. What you get is mouthful after glorious mouthful of yummy, earthy, warming flavor!

Now for the kale’s wisdom:  As the grandmother of the cruciferous veg, you can bet that it packs a real serious punch against cancer, especially breast, colon, ovary, bladder and prostate cancer.  The fiber in kale also does wonders for reducing cholesterol.  It’s deep green hue means that it is an incredible source of chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll has antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory properties.  Kale is kryptonite to free radicals and oxidative stress!  And, in the event some of you are still on your detox regimen, “kale is now recognized as providing comprehensive support for the body’s detoxification system. New research has shown that the Isothiocyanates made from kale’s glucosinolates can help regulate detox at a genetic level.”¹  Is that good news or what?

I know that detoxing isn’t an easy process, especially if it’s the first time you embark on that journey.  But, this crunchy snack is sure to help!

If you’ve opted out of the detox route for now, don’t fret, kale really is for everyone!

You’ll need:

Preheat oven to 200°

1 large bunch of curly kale (I’ve never made these with Tuscan Kale, but let me know how it comes out if you give it a go!)

1-2 T extra-virgin olive oil (I used the oil reserved from my garlic confit for added flavor.)

1 t sea salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Red chili peppers, sliced or red pepper flakes, to taste

To make:

1. Stem and wash kale and set on clean kitchen towels to completely dry.

2. Spread kale leaves evenly  on a sheet pan and drizzle 1 T of oil on the leaves.  Toss them to make sure all leaves have some oil but aren’t truly “wet”.  1 T is usually enough since you don’t want the leaves weighed down by the weight of the oil.  If you have a super large bunch of kale (lucky) then you can go with the other T.

3. Add sea salt, ground pepper and chili peppers/pepper flakes and toss to coat evenly.

4. Set the sheet pan on the middle rack and set your time for 15 minutes.  Check back and turn leaves over using tongs.  Let the kale cook for another 15 minutes.  You may need to adjust the time depending on your oven’s heat and circulation.  A convection oven tends to produce drier, lighter chips.  (If using a convection oven, you can set temp to 175°.)

5. Remove from oven when done and enjoy right off the sheet pan (I usually do) or wait till it cools before putting it into a serving bowl.

¹http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38

Trick for Treat

By Guest Writer:  Sophia Lambrakis

Click photo for credit:)

You need to pay now to party later.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and The Holidays are just around the corner, and they each bring with them their own share of calorie-packed treats and gut-busting goodies. And while the uninhibited merry-making is certainly a pleasure for the soul, the body is a little bit less forgiving. By January 1st, most of us get on the scale with a gripping sense of panic and regret. The mirth and cheer are quickly replaced by retribution in the form of sobering resolutions.  But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

With a little preparation now, in early autumn, we can allow ourselves to give in to the approaching decadence, guilt free. You see, our systems don’t work that well on the principle of “enjoy now, pay later.”  They respond much better to prepaid credit, if you will. Treat your body well ahead of time, and you will reap the benefits later, despite the occasional indulgence. The more credit you purchase in advance, the more permissive you can be, before it’s time to reload, again.

One of the best ways to recharge your system and give it the boost it needs to take you through the winter is body detoxification. What are the signs that you are ripe for a good detox? Well, do you often feel fatigued, heavy, achy, lethargic, ill, and/or forgetful?  Then, chances are your body has accumulated more harmful toxins than it can reasonably process and eliminate. And that’s pretty easy in today’s world. Thanks to CO2 emissions in the air we breathe,  heavy metals in our water, arsenic in our apples and rice, pesticides and dioxins in our fruits and vegetables, growth-hormones and antibiotics in our meats, and BPA in our food containers and homes –just to name a few of the culprits (!!!) – it’s no wonder we feel lousy!

Luckily, a good dose of detoxification is all it takes to ease your overworked liver, kidneys, gut and skin, and cleanse your system of a myriad of harmful contaminants. That way, when the holiday season begins, you can enjoy it with a clean body, a clear conscience, and a couple of extra ‘brownie points’.

There are a number of meal plans and rules you can follow to create a detox course that is best suited for your individual needs. But, generally speaking, a good cleansing plan should be carried out for at least two weeks and should include whole, organic, unprocessed, unrefined (animal-free) foods served in smaller than usual portions, and, no doubt,  lots of filtered water. One of the dishes I often turn to during my autumn detox is a miso soup variation (*recipe below) that is as hearty as it is beneficial. A large pot (sans the miso paste and barley) will keep for several days in the fridge. Just warm a bowl, add miso and barley to your liking, and enjoy!

Hearty Miso Soup (with Pearl Barley)

NOTE: Miso is a thick, fermented paste that contains a significant amount of beneficial bacteria which help promote health by stimulating digestion and aiding the body to build resistance against disease. Since it is considered a living food, it’s important to never cook miso or allow it to come to a boil. Instead, be sure to add it to foods that are already prepared.

4 cups Dashi (see recipe below)

1 cup water

2 tsp oil (sesame or olive)

2 carrots (peeled and cut into matchsticks)

1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger

3-6 mushrooms (preferably shiitake, either fresh or reconstituted, and sliced thin)

1 cup spinach (fresh or frozen)

2 scallion (sliced thinly on the diagonal)

2- 3 tbsp miso paste

1 tbsp shoyu or tamari

Red pepper flakes (to taste)

Grated fresh ginger (optional)

OPTIONAL:

½ cup cooked pearl barley (prepared in a separate pot according to package directions)

Directions

  1. Sauté ginger, carrots and mushrooms in a large pot with 2 tsp oil. (About 3-4 minutes)
  2. Add water to pot. Bring to a boil, then add dashi.
  3. Allow to simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, then add spinach and simmer another 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Add scallions, miso that has been mixed with some water, and shoyu.
  5. Season with red pepper flakes.
  6. Enjoy soup plain or add cooked barley for a heartier meal.

Dashi

Note: Makes 8 cups. Dashi is a basic Japanese stock used to make many soups including traditional Miso soup.

1 square piece kombu  (3×3 inches)

8 cups water

1 loose cup bonito flakes

Directions

  1. Put kombu in a large pot, cover with water and soak for 30 minutes.
  2. Set the pot over medium heat until small bubbles form around the sides of the pan, 9 – 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the kombu from the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the bonito flakes. Simmer gently, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Strain the liquid through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Reserve the kombu and bonito flakes for another use.
  5. Store in an airtight container. Use within 1 week refrigerated or freeze for up to 1 month.

Sophia Lambrakis is a writer, a chef and a nutritional consultant.  She lives and cooks in Salzburg, Austria.

P.S. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m making this version of miso soup today and racking up some credit!  Good luck and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me (guayagourmet@gmail.com) or leave a comment.  Thanks!  (Love, Nathalie and Claire Berlin)