Dinner · Vegetarian

Caramelized Tofu and Brussels Sprouts

I’ll admit, the first time I read this recipe I was doubtful. In my Own “Flavor Bible” that I’ve developed over the years, I never imagined that Brussels sprouts would pair well with tofu. Roasted with olive oil and bacon? Definitely. Pan fried with Parmesan cheese? Delicious. But stir fried with soy and Asian flavors? That seemed unlikely.

Caramelized Tofu and Brussels Sprouts

Enter the shredded Brussels sprout. These sprouts are sliced thinly and stir fried, replacing the typical halved-and-roasted sprout that makes a seasonal appearance on household menus everywhere. Furthermore, these sprouts retain their crunch throughout the cooking process, behaving like green or red cabbage when put over high heat.

To shred the sprouts by hand, cut the bottom off the sprouts and slice them in half lengthwise. With the cut side down, chop the halves into thin strips. Most sprouts, especially the leafier ones, will shred easily. To cook, stir fry the sprouts in hot oil for 3-5 minutes, until leaves appear charred and tender.

Toss the Brussels sprouts with some garlic, soy sauce, and caramelized tofu for a quick dinner that’s both sweet and salty – a combination that’s bound to satisfy everyone at the table.

Caramelized Tofu with Brussels Sprouts (Adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces firm tofu, cut into cubes
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
  • 1.5-2 tbsp tablespoons light brown sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
  • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup brown rice, cooked
  • Neutral oil, like canola oil or safflower oil

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu cubes and stir fry until golden, 2-3 minutes on each side.
  2. Add the garlic and nuts and stir fry for another minute or so. Reduce the heat slightly and gently add in the brown sugar, stirring quickly for 30 seconds to ensure that the sugar doesn’t burn. Remove tofu mixture from the pan to rest.
  3. Add shredded Brussels sprouts to the pan. Salt lightly and cook until slightly softened and charred, about 3 minutes. Stir in the green onions and soy sauce and stir fry for another 30 seconds. Add tofu mixture back to the pan to combine flavors. Let cool slightly and serve over brown rice.

Serves 2.

Dinner · Vegetarian

Ratatouille Spaghetti

Even though the temperatures this week undoubtedly hint at fall, the vegetables at the farmers market still speak of summer. Nothing makes me happier than the colors and flavors of tomatoes, summer squash, corn, and eggplant, and I’m happy to extend their season way into September.

This brings me to one of my favorite recipes, ratatouille.  This success of this dish is rooted in its components – bring together all your freshest summer vegetables, throw them in a pot, and you’re sure to get a winning result.

What’s more, the cooking directions are entirely informed by sturdiness of the vegetable. Curious where to start? Eggplant is notorious for its long cooking times, so why not saute it in a batch by itself. Ready to move on? Add in your peppers and onions, which typically take about 5-7 minutes to begin breaking down. Follow up with your summer squash and zucchini, since both vegetables have relatively similar textures and will cook at about the same speed. Top the dish off with your tomatoes and continue cooking until the flavors and fresh and sweet – you’ll know it’s ready when you taste it!

A few tips: chop your vegetables so that they are fairly comparable in size. This will help to control cooking times, ensuring that each vegetable is cooked through (but not overcooked!). In addition, don’t forget your seasonings. Salt and pepper go a long way with fresh summer vegetables, and the basil adds a special last touch.

Ratatouille Spaghetti (adapted from Alice Waters’ recipe at Food 52)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Japanese eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 red pepper, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup corn kernels (from one ear of corn)
  • handful of basil, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • olive oil
  • cooked spaghetti, for serving

Instructions:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a sturdy skillet. Once hot, add eggplant slices and saute until lightly browned and softened, about 7-10 minutes. Remove eggplant and set it aside.
  2. Heat another tbsp olive oil and add in the onions. Stir for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add in the garlic, 1/2 the basil, and red chili flakes and stir for 30 more seconds.
  3. Add in the diced red pepper and stir for a few more minutes. Once slightly softened, add in the zucchini and summer squash. After 2 to 3 minutes more, add in the tomatoes. Salt and pepper as needed and cook for 10 minutes over low to medium heat (tomatoes should not come to a boil).
  4. Add corn and eggplant to the skillet and cook for 10 more minutes, or until all vegetables are softened and flavorful. Top with remaining basil and serve over spaghetti or pasta.

Serves 2-3

Dinner · Vegetarian

Root Vegetable Couscous

While this dish might be rather dull in color, it’s shining with flavor. With a long list of spices (star anise, cinnamon sticks, ginger, turmeric, and paprika), every bite tastes sweet, spicy, and delicious.

Winter Couscous

The toughest part of this recipe is the preparation. While root vegetables might be plentiful at this time of year, their texture makes them a struggle to peel and chop. Once this step is done, however, the recipe is largely hands off and requires little attention.

If you’re looking for a new way to use up that squash, or want a warm dish to offset the cold of winter, this one won’t let you down.

Winter Couscous 2

Winter Couscous Recipe (adapted from Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi)

Ingredients:

  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 3/4 in. cubes
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4 in. cubes
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chile flakes
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4 in. cubes
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • harissa, to serve
  • parsley, to serve

Instructions:

  1.  Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together parsnips, carrots, onions, cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, ginger, turmeric, paprika, chile flakes, olive oil, and 3/4 tsp salt. Place in a large baking dish and roast for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove the dish from the oven and add butternut squash. Cook for another 35 minutes.
  3. Boil vegetable stock in a small pot.  Once ready, add couscous and remove from heat.  Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, add in 1 tbsp of butter and fluff with a fork.
  4. Remove vegetables from the oven and add 1 1/2 cups water and dried apricots.  Continue roasting for 10 minutes more.
  5. Serve vegetables on top of couscous with harissa and parsley on top.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Dinner · Vegetarian

Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Bean Stew

Lately, temperatures in the teens and single digits have encouraged me to spend more time in the kitchen. With plenty of ingredients on hand and time to spare, I’ve had the chance to try a handful of recipes that take longer than I’m usually willing to spend over the stove.

This winter stew is one of my latest creations. It’s a combination of some of my favorite winter vegetables, including kale, squash, root vegetables, and beans. The end result is both colorful and hearty; the perfect thing to eat when the temperature drops below freezing.

squash stew

The key here is to roast the squash and carrots in the oven before adding them to the stew with the rest of the ingredients. The roasting process allows the vegetables to caramelize while cooking, bringing out their natural sweetness. I also went for a broth that was tomato-based rather than broth-based, making the stew thicker and more flavorful than similar recipes.

Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Bean Stew Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 carrots, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups whole tomatoes, with juice (from a 28 oz. can)
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale (about 8 leaves)
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • salt, to taste
  • olive oil
  • 32 oz. vegetable broth

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss butternut squash and carrots lightly in olive oil and spread on a sheet pan lined with foil. Roast 25-30 minutes, or until squash is tender when poked with a fork.
  2. Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes more.
  3. Chop whole tomatoes and add them to the saucepan. Add thyme and basil and let simmer.
  4. after 5-10 minutes, remove half of the tomato liquid. Place it in a blender and puree for 30 seconds.
  5. Add tomato mixture back to the saucepan. Pour in vegetable broth and bring back to a simmer. Add in kale and cook for 30 minutes at a gentle simmer.
  6. Add white beans, squash, and carrots. Cook until heated through and serve.
  7. Makes 6-8 servings.
Dinner · Vegetarian

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

My favorite thing to cook for big groups is lasagna.  Especially in the winter, lasagna is the perfect comfort food for cold nights.  So, when a few people came over to watch football this weekend, I knew immediately what to put on the menu.

lasagna cooked

I have a few reliable recipes that I go to time and again (especially this one with butternut squash and mushrooms), but I wanted to try something new. I also wanted a seasonal recipe, which is inarguably difficult to find in the middle of January.  Without popular fillings like summer squash, eggplant, and asparagus, I decided to go with mushrooms, onions, and spinach. I also left out the ricotta, which makes the lasagna less traditional but a bit heartier and more filling.

ingredients

To really improve the flavor of my lasagna, I did two major things.  The first was to cook my own tomato sauce, which is pretty easy (it only takes about 10 minutes) and tastes much better than the jarred stuff from the store.  The second was to vary up the cheeses in my recipe, going beyond the typical mozzarella and Parmesan combination.  I ultimately chose to include Gruyere and Pecorino, adding a sharp and salty flavor to the cheese layer.

making the lasagna layers

A few notes: I’m a huge fan of no-boil noodles, but you have to be careful.  Make sure to coat them thoroughly in sauce, otherwise they won’t soften up during baking.  Also, feel free to swap in other veggies.  In the future, I plan on trying variations with broccoli, cauliflower, and eggplant.

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Recipe (inspired by Cooks Illustrated)

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 15 no boil lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms (button, crimini, and portobello), sliced or chopped
  • 1 pound frozen spinach (or fresh), thawed
  • dried herbs (I used thyme and oregano)
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mozzarella, grated
  • 6 oz Gruyere, grated
  • 2 oz Pecorino Romano, grated
  • 3 oz Parmesan, grated

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and grease a deep 13 x 9 baking dish.
  2. For the tomato sauce: In a large skillet, heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.  Add half the minced garlic (about two tbsp) and swirl around the pan for about a minute.  Add crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a steady simmer and let cook for 10 minutes, or until thickened.  Add 1/2 cup water, red wine vinegar, and tomato paste.  Simmer for a few minutes longer to meld flavors and then remove from heat.
  3. For the vegetables: Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and let cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and remaining garlic and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until mushrooms are fully cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated.  If there is still liquid in your pan, strain mushrooms to remove as much liquid as possible.
  4. Place thawed spinach in a large colander and squeeze to remove excess liquid (Don’t skip this step! If you do, your lasagna will be too wet). Combine spinach and mushrooms in a large skillet or bowl. Set aside.
  5. For the cheese layer: In a small bowl, mix together the mozzarella and Gruyere.
  6. To assemble: Coat bottom of the 13 x 9 pan with a light layer of olive oil and 1/2 cup tomato sauce.  Place three noodles on top, making sure that they do not touch the edges of the pan.  Cover the noodles with 1 cup cooked vegetables, 1/2 cup sauce, and 3/4 grated cheese mixture, 1 tbsp Pecorino, and 1 tbsp Parmesan. Place three noodles on top, and continue repeating layers of vegetables, sauce, and cheese three more times.  When you get to the top layer, lay down three more noodles, remaining sauce, remaining cheese, and 2 tbsp Parmesan.
  7. To bake: Cover lasagna with foil and bake for 25 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more, until top is browned and bubbly.  Remove and let cool for 5-10 minutes.
Dinner · Pasta · Vegetarian

Penne with Winter Squash and Kale

This is a great example of a dish that can be prepared on a weeknight without taking over the whole evening. The ingredients are very simple, and many of them are winter staples that you probably have sitting around in your pantry or fridge.

roasted delicata squashThe recipe uses both the oven and the stovetop, significantly cutting down preparation time and making things easier for those of us that cook in close quarters.

squash and kale pasta

In addition, delicata squash makes a great choice here. It can be roasted and eaten without peeling, significantly cutting down preparation time. Once the squash is in the oven, the whole meal comes together in 30 minutes or less.

pasta with squash and kale

After a busy thanksgiving, this dish is a welcome vacation from long hours in the kitchen.

Pasta with Winter Squash and Kale Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 6 0z. penne pasta
  • 1 delicata squash, halved, seeded, and cut into 1/3 inch slices
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8-10 kale leaves, stemmed and chopped
  • splash of white wine
  • 4 oz. ricotta cheese
  • pecorino cheese, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Cook pasta according to the directions on the package.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Toss delicata squash with 1 tbsp of olive oil and place on a lined (or greased) baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until squash can be easily pierced with a fork.
  4. In the meantime, heat remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet.  Once hot, add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute more.
  5. Add chopped kale to the skillet.  stir until kale begins to wilt, about 5 minutes.  If desired, add a splash of wine during the last minute of cooking.
  6. Add the cooked squash and pasta to the skillet. Stir in ricotta and pecorino cheese and serve.

Makes 3 servings.

Dinner · Vegetarian

Winter Squash and Spinach Pizza

winter squash pizza

This recipe is inspired by Picco, a lovely restaurant located in Boston’s South End. While everything on the menu is top notch, my absolute favorite thing to order is the pizza covered in butternut squash, brussels sprouts, and a generous amount of fontina cheese.

For my rendition of this recipe, I decided to skip the red sauce and start with a foundation of white pizza.  I didn’t have any brussels sprouts on hand, so I replaced them with a few handfuls of fresh spinach.  I also added a few caramelized onions, since I love their sweet and savory flavor (hint: if you’re in a rush, add some balsamic vinegar to the onions near the end of cooking.  This creates a similar flavor, but takes about half the time!).

Winter Squash and Spinach Pizza Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Pizza dough (I suggest this recipe, but you can also buy some at your local grocery store)
  • mozzarella cheese, grated
  • ricotta cheese
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  • 1/2 butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium onion
  • cornmeal
  • olive oil

Prep:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the cubes of butternut squash in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place on a prepared baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, testing for doneness with a fork. Don’t overcook, since the butternut squash will roast for 10 minutes more on top of the pizza.
  2. Cut the onion in half and slice into thin half moons. Heat oil in a small skillet on low and add onions.  Cook for about 20 minutes, or until onions are evenly golden brown and caramelized.
  3. In the meantime, spread cornmeal out onto a large baking pan.  Stretch the pizza dough so that it is uniformly thin and fits nicely into the baking pan. Rub stretched dough with a light layer of olive oil.

Assemble the Pizza:

  1. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.
  2. Spread mozzarella cheese evenly over the pizza dough. Using a medium sized spoon, scoop ricotta out of the container and drop onto the pizza. Continue this process 10-15 more times, until pizza is evenly covered. Sprinkle spinach over the entire pizza. Use a few handfuls, keeping in mind that the spinach will shrink during cooking.
  3. Top pizza with minced garlic, caramelized onions, and cooked butternut squash cubes. Place in the hot oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until pizza is evenly browned.  Remove and let cool before serving.