Better Than Butternut: Roasted Delicata Squash Recipe

by | Nov 4, 2013
Roasted Delicata Squash

Roasted Delicata Squash

I have a confession to make: I should have posted this recipe a long time ago.

It has been over a year since I discovered delicata squash, and I instantly fell in love. But let me start at the beginning.

Like most people, I hadn’t heard of delicata squash before, but was a big fan of butternut. Butternut squash tastes rich and sweet, and has a wonderful texture. It’s also very filling, and is a fantastic substitute for more starchy carbohydrates.

But anyone who has tried to cook with butternut squash knows it isn’t easy to work with. Butternut squash are huge, have a tough outer skin and take longer than most vegetables to cook through.

Lazy people don’t cook butternut squash. And I came to accept the fact that I am one of those people.

But last winter everything changed. Somewhere around the blogosphere I heard that not all winter squash require peeling. To me the difficult (and sometimes painful) peeling is the hardest part of cooking winter squash, so I was instantly intrigued about the possibility of alternatives.

I was delighted to learn the beautiful green Japanese “pumpkin” kabocha squash don’t require peeling (woohoo!). I also discovered delicata.

Delicata Squash

Delicata Squash

Delicata are much smaller than most winter squash, making them substantially easier to get home from the market and more amenable to the needs of a small household. More important, delicata squash are a cinch to clean, cut and cook, making them any winter squash lover’s dream.

Did I mention their flavor is even richer and their texture more creamy than butternut?

I prefer to roast my delicata squash in a metal pan, allowing the outer edges to brown and caramelize. While a Pyrex or ceramic pan will also work, I’ve found that I get better browning when I use metal to cook in. Foil will likely give you the same effect, but I haven’t tried.

The caramelization creates an almost sweet potato like flavor. Fans call the recipe my “squash fries,” even though they are baked in the oven. Needless to say I make this recipe all the time.
Read the rest of this post »

Tags: , , , , ,

How To Make (And Eat) A Perfect Steamed Artichoke

by | Apr 10, 2013
Perfect Steamed Artichoke

Perfect Steamed Artichoke

A perfect artichoke can be elusive. If it’s undercooked, it’ll be tough and stringy. If it’s overcooked, slimy and mushy. When it’s perfect it will be silky, creamy and hold together well.

Read the rest of this post »

Tags: , , , ,

How To Cook Perfect Rice Without A Rice Cooker (and store it for months)

by | Nov 26, 2012

Rice Balls

I have been getting a lot of questions about rice lately, and I am not surprised. Though some people swear by rice cookers I have found them to be inconsistent and generally unreliable, especially when it comes to brown rice.

My solution? Stove top.

A few years ago I read about this method of cooking rice that supposedly worked “every time” for every kind of rice. I had trouble believing it because I’ve found that different styles of rice have hugely different requirements in both the amount of water and time needed. However, I have had great success with the method and am extremely happy with it (sorry, I do not remember where I found it).

The reason this trick works so consistently is that it does not rely on a specific amount of time or water. Rather you need to test the grains occasionally for tenderness and decide for yourself when it is done. I have found for brown rice the entire process takes about 30 minutes, which is 10 minutes shorter than it took in my rice cooker.

Because rice does take so long to prepare, I like to make large batches and freeze individual servings so that I do not have to wait half an hour for dinner every single night.

For short grain brown rice, I use about 2 cups of dry grain and a large 2 quart sauce pan. Put the rice in the pot and add cold water until it is almost full. Use your hand to swirl the rice around and loosen any dirt and dust. When the rice settles back to the bottom, dump the water off the top and repeat. Continue to rinse rice until the water is almost perfectly clear, about 4-5 times.

After the last rinse add cold water to your rice until you have at least 3 times the volume of water to rice. Do not worry too much about the amount, and err on the side of excess. This is especially important with brown rice which absorbs much more water than white rice. Place the rice and water on the stove and turn the heat on high.

When the rice begins to boil, reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer, uncovered. This is a good time to start the rest of your dinner.

Check on the rice grains occasionally by grabbing a few out with a fork and testing them for tenderness (squish between your fingernails or taste it). Rice becomes opaque when it cooks, so there is no point in checking it while it is still somewhat translucent. Once the rice does start to turn opaque, check tenderness every 2-5 minutes. If too much water evaporates and the rice starts to look soupy, you need to add more water. You should add enough water at the beginning to avoid this.

Boil rice until it is almost tender enough to eat. In other words, imagine you are an impatient person who wants the rice to be finished as quickly as possible so you decide the rice is done and serve it, but later regret that decision because the rice is ever so slightly al dente. It is at this point you want to stop the boiling and begin the steaming.

Next drain off the remaining water. A mesh strainer or splatter guard works nicely for this (hold it over the pot and simply dump the water into the sink), but you can also carefully pour the water off and use a fork to keep loose kernels from falling out (but seriously be careful!).

Place the pot with rice back on the burner and reduce the heat to as low as it will go. Cover the rice and set a kitchen timer for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes turn off the burner and set the timer for another 5 minutes. Do not lift the lid during this process unless you are concerned that you messed up the boiling time and want to check on the doneness. After the rice has sat for 5 minutes, remove the lid, fluff with a fork and serve. Put the lid back on if you are going to let the rice cool in the pot.

If for some reason you think you overcooked the rice when you were boiling it, you can skip the steaming step and just let the drained rice sit covered with the burner off for 5 minutes. If you undershoot, you can always extend the length of the steaming process, but it will take much longer.

I usually wait until the rice has cooled down substantially before wrapping it in plastic. It is the last thing I do in my after-dinner clean up. To store rice, break off squares of plastic wrap and scoop individual rice servings (1/4-1/2 cup) into the middle. Fold over the plastic, twist the ends and tie them in a half knot so that the rice is in a ball, as shown. Put rice balls in a freezer bag and into the freezer.

To thaw, remove a rice ball from the freezer and allow to sit on counter for a few minutes until you can untie the knot without leaving little pieces of plastic stuck in the folds of rice. If you forgot to do this (I always forget!) you can run the knotted plastic under warm (not hot, heat releases toxins in the plastic that can get into your food) until you can untie it. Place unwrapped frozen rice ball in a small bowl and microwave on high for 1-2 minutes. I like to use our microwave cover for this, but you have to figure out for yourself what works best in your own microwave.

Having individual rice servings is very, very handy. Brown rice is a fabulous option to make light vegetable dishes, soups and salads more substantial.

I just dug this recipe out of the archives because it is so darn useful. Use it wisely.

Originally published October 12, 2008.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

How To Make Cauliflower Taste As Good As French Fries: Roasted Curried Cauliflower

by | Jul 30, 2012
Roasted Curried Cauliflower

Roasted Curried Cauliflower

I’ve resisted publishing this recipe for months because I was worried it was too simple for an entire blog post. But every time I cook it for someone (which I do all the time because it is so easy and delicious) they ask me for the recipe so they can try it themselves. Now I can just send them a link :)

What’s weird is that this is just roasted cauliflower, it couldn’t sound any less glamorous. But for some reason roasting cauliflower completely transforms it from a vegetable people are pretty sure they don’t like into something they just can’t get enough of.

The coolest part of all is that anyone (like ANY anyone) can make this. I like to add curry powder to mine, but you can play around with whatever spices you like, or just make it plain. The trick is to use a very hot oven, around 450-500 degrees. Covering the cauliflower for the first 15 minutes steam cooks it. Then when you remove the foil the high heat browns and caramelizes it, giving the cauliflower a slightly crisp texture and complex flavor that is irresistible.

It still freaks me out how good this recipe is.

Roasted Curried Cauliflower Recipe

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cauliflower (or several small ones), ~2 lbs
  • Curry powder
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Break cauliflower into medium-small florets and place into large bowl or baking pan. Be sure the pieces are as evenly sized as possible, or they will cook unevenly. The smaller you make the pieces, the quicker they will cook and the more caramelized they will become, which I consider a good thing.

Drizzle cauliflower pieces generously with olive oil and season well with salt and curry powder. Distribute evenly in a single layer at the bottom of a baking pan. If necessary, use a second baking pan to be sure the pieces aren’t too crowded.

Cover the pans with foil and place into the oven. Roast, covered for 10-15 minutes. The cauliflower should be slightly soft and start looking translucent. If not replace foil and cook another 5 minutes.

When the cauliflower has finished steaming, remove the foil and toss with tongs. Continue to roast, stirring every 8-10 minutes until the tips of the cauliflower begin to brown and become crisp as pictured. Approximately 30-35 minutes.

Adjust salt to taste (you will probably need another sprinkle) and serve.

Have you ever tried roasted cauliflower?

Originally published July 21, 2010, and is widely considered my best recipe of all time.

Tags: , , , , ,

Pan Roasted Baby Artichokes With Pistachios, Lemon And Black Quinoa Recipe

by | May 7, 2012
Pan Roasted Artichokes With Pistachios And Black Quinoa Recipe

Pan Roasted Artichokes With Pistachios And Black Quinoa

Small artichokes really don’t get the love they deserve. While the large ones are delicious and great for entertaining, the smaller kind are easier to work with and much more versatile. They are tender and delicious, and usually even less expensive.

This recipe for pan roasted baby artichokes was born out of necessity. After a solid week of forgetting to buy the herbs I needed to make my usual recipe, my bag of artichokes were the last remaining vegetable in my refrigerator and I knew if I didn’t cook them they would soon go bad. So I started digging around my pantry.

Since I didn’t have parsley, I needed something else to season the artichokes. The only other fresh flavor I had was lemon, so I decided to use the zest as a primary ingredient. I also used pistachio nuts that I had left over from my Chard, Pistachios and Mint recipe, and some black quinoa (here’s my favorite brand) to make the dish more substantial.

I was completely unprepared for how delicious this turned out. I caramelized the lemon zest with some shallot, which gave the artichokes a sweet tanginess that perfectly balanced their creamy flavor. The quinoa added a beautiful contrasting color and an intriguing crunchy texture, while the nuttiness of the pistachios gave the dish a rich earthiness.

As soon as I tasted it I knew I needed to share this recipe. The second time around it turned out just as good.

Pan Roasted Baby Artichokes With Pistachios, Lemon and Black Quinoa

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb small artichokes
  • 1 half medium shallot
  • 1/4 c. shelled pistachio nuts
  • Juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1/2 c. black quinoa cooked
  • 1/4 c. + 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

If you haven’t cooked your quinoa, start that first. Remember that it expands to four times its original volume when cooked, so you don’t need to make a lot.

Whisk 1/4 c. olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl. Clean your artichokes by cutting off the top third and the bottom, then removing all the tough leaves. You do not want the artichokes to be stringy, so it is better to remove extra leaves than too few.

Cut your clean artichoke in half then submerge it instantly in the olive oil and lemon juice mixture. Artichokes quickly oxidize and turn black when exposed to air. The acid from the lemon juice will prevent this from happening. As you’re cleaning the artichokes and adding them to the bowl, stir the mixture regularly to be sure none are exposed to air for too long.

Thinly slice your shallot. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a deep pan on medium high heat. When the oil swirls easily in the pan add the shallots and pistachio nuts. When the shallots begin to brown, add the zest and stir. Cook the mixture for another minute or two until the shallots have almost completely caramelized.

Add the artichokes and liquid to the pan and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the artichokes so their faces are touching the surface of the pan and allow them to brown and the liquid to reduce. Stir the artichokes every few minutes until the liquid is almost completely reduced and all surfaces of the artichokes start to brown. If the pan dries before the artichokes have finished cooking, add 1/8 c. of water to prevent the shallots and nuts from burning.

The artichokes are done cooking when then are tender all the way through. At the last minute, toss in the quinoa and mix well. Make sure to scrape the caramelized bits of shallot and zest into the quinoa. Adjust salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Makes one main course or 2-3 side dishes. This would pair beautifully with roasted rosemary chicken.

Originally published April 19, 2010.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Quick Fix: Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

by | Apr 25, 2012
Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

Nothing represents springtime quite like fresh asparagus. This easy recipe highlights its unique flavor by pairing it with sweet carrots and reduced balsamic vinegar. It is simple, delicious and can be prepared in under 10 minutes.

Start with the freshest, greenest asparagus you can get your hands on. These should be easy to find in California throughout the springtime.

The trick to keeping asparagus tender and not fibrous is to snap off the bottom of the spears with your hands. The asparagus will naturally break where the fibers are thinnest and most tender, leaving all the thick and chewy fibers on the end you throw out. After washing, grip each asparagus spear near the middle with one hand and use the other hand to snap off the bottom.

To make it more substantial add an egg, lentils, beans or just use it as a side dish. Here it was served on a bed of brown rice that I pulled from the freezer.

Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

Ingredients:

  • Asparagus (1/4 – 1/2 bunch for single serving)
  • Carrots, 3-5 medium-small carrots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt

Crush and mince your garlic clove and set aside. Prepare your asparagus spears as described above and cut them into 1-2 inch bite-sized pieces. Peel your carrots with a vegetable peeler (my peeler recommendation can be found in the Shop under Kitchen Gear > Accessories) and slice at an angle into half inch pieces. Angled cuts increase the surface area of the carrot and are better for cooking.

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add carrots to the pan and stir to coat with oil. Add asparagus to the pan and stir again. Sprinkle sea salt onto the vegetables and allow them to cook until asparagus is bright green and starting to sweat, about 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Clear a space in the center of the pan and add garlic in a single layer. Allow to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir to mix garlic with the vegetables. Drizzle on balsamic vinegar and stir. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the carrots are tender and a thin balsamic glaze begins to form on the vegetables. Remove from the pan and served immediately.

What is your favorite Quick Fix for asparagus?

Originally published April 6, 2009.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

5-Minute Lunch: The Tastiest, Easiest, Healthiest Bean Salad on the Planet

by | Feb 22, 2012
Heirloom Bean Salad

Heirloom Bean Salad

This is a recipe that I rely on often, particularly when I’m short on time but don’t want to eat something unhealthy. As I’ve mentioned like a zillion times during my show, I think beans are one of the absolute best go-to foods when you want something tasty and satisfying.

Don’t worry, this is not one of those nasty 3 bean salads your well-meaning aunt brings to barbecues. When you start with good quality, dry beans they bring an amazingly creamy texture to a dish and are absolutely delicious. And if you prepare them properly by soaking them for a few hours beforehand, you also won’t get any of the digestive issues most of us associate with canned beans.

On that note, the title isn’t quite accurate. It assumes that, like me, you’ve spent a bit of time early in the week making a big batch of beans to add to the meals you make through Friday. That said, preparing the beans only takes 2-3 extra minutes of prep time, but there are a couple hours of waiting between the essential steps. If you use a pressure cooker it is even faster.

In a pinch, feel free to substitute lentils, which can be used similarly but cook up in only 20-30 minutes, depending on the size.

Today I made this recipe using only ingredients I already had in my fridge. I did this intentionally to show you how easy and versatile it is. But feel free to substitute any of the vegetables with ones you have or like better. It doesn’t matter which beans you use either, a simple black bean is also very lovely if you can’t find fancy heirloom beans.

This dish turns out different every time I make it, depending on what I have in the house, my mood and, of course, the season. In the summer, for example, I tend to use cucumber, French radish and a handful of arugula. Also feel free to experiment with different oils, vinegars, citrus, herbs, salts and spices (smoked paprika is a great addition).

I use this dish most often for a light lunch or substantial snack. It can be served warm or cold, or can be made into a full meal by adding a fried egg on top (or other protein) with a side of greens. This recipe is for a single serving, but it scales easily.

Heirloom Bean Salad With Winter Vegetables

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup cooked Rancho Gordo Pinquito beans
  • 2 small carrots or 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sliced lo bok or daikon
  • 1/2 green onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp freshly diced parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or nut oil
  • 2 tsp rice or red wine vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper

If your beans aren’t already cooked, soak them overnight or at least 6 hours. Discard the soaking liquid, rinse several times then cook in beef, mushroom or vegetable stock until tender.

Place appropriate amount of beans in a bowl and add sliced vegetables, green onion and parsley. I tend to go heavy handed on the herbs because they add such a wonderful freshness, but feel free to experiment with the amount you like.

You’re welcome to mix the vinaigrette beforehand, but if you’re lazy like me feel free to just add oil and vinegar directly to the bowl, along with some salt and pepper and any other spices you choose.

Gently stir with a spoon, taking care not to damage the beans. Adjust salt and pepper and enjoy.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Perfect Summer Tomato Bruschetta Recipe

by | Aug 15, 2011
Bruschetta

Bruschetta

Bruschetta was the first sophisticated dish I could really make. That’s probably because it doesn’t require any cooking and is entirely dependent on the quality of your ingredients. Find some good ripe tomatoes, a decent baguette and you’re in business.

For this recipe I used the abundance of spectacular tomatoes I found this weekend at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. I chose one big striped heirloom tomato, several dry-farmed early girls and half a basket of mixed cherry (red) and sungold (orange) baby tomatoes. It doesn’t matter much what varieties you choose, just make sure they are ripe and have good flavor.

Bruschetta Ingredients

Bruschetta Ingredients

The next essential ingredient is a good baguette. I bought sour and Italian baguettes from Acme Bread Co. To turn your bruschetta from good to amazing, be sure to brush your bread slices with olive oil and lightly toast them in the oven.

For this recipe I added a diced roasted pepper, but feel free to get creative with your ingredients. Chunks of fresh mozzarella are a great addition, especially if you are having a hard time choosing between bruschetta and caprese salad.

This recipe is the perfect summer snack and can be served as a starter, side dish or brought to a potluck (keep bread and topping separate until you arrive).

Summer Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. diced summer tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, worked through garlic press
  • 1/4 c. good quality extra-virgin olive oil

    Roasting Pepper

    Roasting Pepper

  • juice of half lemon
  • 8-10 basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
  • paprika, to taste (optional)
  • good sea salt, to taste
  • red bell pepper, fire roasted (optional)
  • splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • sour baguette, sliced into 1/2 in. discs at an angle

If you are roasting a pepper, start by turning on a burner and placing the pepper on top. Blacken the skin evenly by using tongs to turn periodically. When the pepper is completely blackened, remove from flame and allow to cool. Scrape off blackened skin with a dull knife or fork, remove seeds, dice and set aside.

Bruschetta Mix

Bruschetta Mix

In the meantime preheat oven to 325 F and slice bread.

Combine first 9 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Some people add sugar, but I prefer to add a splash of balsamic vinegar if I want a little more sweetness. Paprika is also optional, but I find it adds a nice, subtle complexity. Don’t be shy with your sea salt in this recipe. Allow mixture to marinate briefly, stirring occasionally.

Olive Oil on Baguette

Olive Oil on Baguette

Next brush your baguette slices on one side with olive oil and place in warm oven. Toast for 6-10 minutes. Monitor carefully and do not allow to burn.

Place baguette slices on your serving plate and heap marinated tomatoes on top. Add extra small spoonfuls of juice on top of the mixture to add flavor and soften bread.

Serve immediately and crack the champagne.

What do you add to your bruschetta?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

How (And Why) To Cook And Freeze Large Batches Of Lentils

by | Mar 17, 2010
Collards, Carrots and Lentils Recipe

Collards, Carrots and Lentils Recipe

Healthy eating is important, but for most people (myself included) there are two factors that will almost always trump your best intentions to eat well: taste and time.

In the long run you will not win a battle of wills against your taste buds, and if you think about it you probably don’t even want to. If you hope to build long-term healthy eating habits I suggest focusing your efforts on making the food you cook at home taste as good or better than your default, less healthy alternatives.

Convenience is also a big factor in our daily food decisions. Time is one of our most precious resources, and although I recommend eating slowly I am a big advocate of cooking simply and quickly. In fact, one of the reasons I most often decide to cook at home is that making my own food is much quicker than visiting even the closest taqueria. It is also healthier and cheaper.

On a typical weeknight, I sit down to dinner 15-20 minutes after walking in the door. Granted, I usually cook for just myself, but doubling my recipes is fairly easily and doesn’t cost much in time.

This kind of efficiency does require a bit of planning, however. My meals are typically composed of a big pile of vegetables and either beans, lentils, eggs, fish, intact whole grains, or some combination of these. Half the battle is being sure these things are in your home when you need them.

My fridge is always stocked with fresh vegetables and herbs from my weekly farmers market trip. I also usually set aside a little time each week to cook a large batch of either beans or lentils, which are among my absolute favorite foods for adding substance, texture and a world of flavor to dishes.

I’ve written before about how I make beans using a pressure cooker, but today I want to focus on lentils. Lentils are smaller and more delicate than most beans. As a result, they cook faster and don’t require as much culinary foresight (beans require an overnight soak, while lentils do not).

There are many varieties of lentils. Some are more firm and keep their shape after cooking, making them ideal for adding to stir fries and salads. They can also be used as a substitute for or addition to grain dishes. Examples of firm lentils are French green, black beluga and the most common Spanish brown varieties.

Yellow, red and orange lentils are even smaller and more delicate, which causes them to fall apart and turn to liquid during cooking. These lentils are common ingredients in soups, stews and Indian food.

Because I frequently use lentils as a last minute addition to vegetable dishes to make them more substantial, I have worked to optimize the cooking and storage for a few of the firm varieties. My preference is for the French green and black beluga, but since black lentils are harder to find I performed my experiments exclusively on the green and brown varieties.

My goal was to find the optimal cooking time and the best freezing methods for lentils. Specifically I was hoping to find a convenient method of freezing individual servings that could be stored indefinitely and used within minutes at any time, similar to my method of freezing brown rice.

Traditionally I cook lentils on the stove top in a regular covered sauce pan, but this time I also tried the pressure cooker to see if it could reduce cooking time. In each of my experiments I used 1 cup of dry lentils and 6 cups of water with salt. I added the lentils to a pot of cold water and started my timer when the pot hit the flame.

When preparing lentils, always be sure to rinse them and check for small pebbles before cooking. I do this by slowly pouring my dry lentils into a fine mesh strainer (while checking for pebbles), then rinsing them under the faucet for 30 seconds or so.

A few things surprised me during my experiments. The first is that French green lentils have a much more robust, complex flavor than brown lentils, which have a more subtle flavor and creamier texture. Brown lentils also retained more water and didn’t hold their shape quite as well as the green lentils, and took substantially longer to cook. For these reasons, I strongly preferred the green lentils in my experiments, though I would happily use brown lentils in a hearty stew or as a bed for meat or poultry.

Additionally, because brown lentils didn’t hold their shape as well, I was unable to freeze them in individual plastic wrapped servings like rice. However this method worked wonderfully for green lentils.

As you might expect, my success at freezing lentils in plastic wrap depended on how much liquid I could remove from them before freezing.

For best results, strain lentils very well using a fine meshed strainer before wrapping in individual servings. Carefully place 1/2 cup of lentils in the center of a square of plastic. Fold two opposite edges over the lentils, twist the ends and tie them in a half knot at the top, trying to avoid folding plastic into the lentil ball. To use, run the frozen ball under warm (not hot) water until you can untie the knot. Place lentils in a bowl and microwave 2-3 minutes. Stir with a fork and use.

Both brown and green lentils also froze well in plastic tupper containers. If you know you will be using lentils regularly, you can split a batch you prepare into two or more containers, keep one in the fridge for use and freeze the others. When you are ready, transfer your frozen lentils from the freezer to the fridge the day before you want to use them. Alternatively you could freeze them in Pyrex or glass containers and simply microwave when you want to use them.

I was also curious if a pressure cooker could reduce the time necessary to prepare lentils. For beans a pressure cooker provides an obvious advantage, since on a stove top they can take hours to cook thoroughly. But lentils take only 30-40 min and do not require pre-soaking as beans do. Boiling lentils requires very little attention (make the rest of your food while they cook) and cleanup is easier, so I was curious if there would still be a time advantage using a pressure cooker.

I got different results for the different varieties. For green lentils the pressure cooker did not provide much of an advantage over regular boiling. I found the optimal pressure cooker time for green lentils to be 5-6 minutes, but it takes about 15 minutes for it to pressurize (could maybe be reduced with less water) and another 5 for depressurizing after cooking. Given the extra cleanup/hassle of using the pressure cooker over a sauce pan, the 35 minutes it took to boil the same amount of lentils feels like a better deal.

Another advantage of not using the pressure cooker for green lentils is it’s possible to check the texture as they cook. With the pressure cooker I found it was easy to undercook or overcook the lentils, and the time window was very narrow. This is not ideal if you want the lentils to keep their shape for freezing.

On the other hand, the time advantage gained by using a pressure cooker for the bigger brown lentils was substantial. Brown lentils cooked completely in 7-8 minutes in the pressure cooker, bringing the total cook time to under 30 minutes. However it took well over 45 minutes for them to soften up with boiling alone.

Though I didn’t test them in these experiments, my experience with red and yellow lentils is that they cook in a pressure cooker in about 4 minutes, much faster than simply boiling. This substantially cuts the amount of time it takes to cook with them.

Summary

French green lentils were my favorite for flavor, ease of cooking and storage. They are easiest to prepare by boiling with salt in a regular covered sauce pan for approximately 35 minutes. If well strained, they freeze beautifully in either individually wrapped balls or in a tupper. They can be kept 4-5 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Brown lentils take longer to cook and time is saved by using a pressure cooker. These lentils can be frozen, but do better in a large solid container than in individually wrapped servings.

Either variety stores well in the freezer and has the potential to substantially cut down on daily cooking times when prepared in large batches and used repeatedly.

Do you freeze lentils? Do you prefer to use a pressure cooker?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quick Fix: Super Easy Kale With Pecans Recipe

by | Feb 8, 2010
Easy Kale With Pecans Recipe

Easy Kale With Pecans Recipe

It has been forever since I’ve posted a recipe, and I apologize. The thing is, I’ve been really busy. And when I’m busy my meals don’t tend to be super interesting or fancy.

But they are definitely delicious.

Kale has been my favorite instant meal lately. I can usually find three different kinds–curly, Tuscan (aka dinosaur), and red Russian–and they all work with this recipe. You can also substitute chard or any other sturdy greens to mix things up. If you want to make your life even easier look for kale with smaller, young leaves so the stems are tender enough to leave in while cooking.

The key to making a plain green vegetable worthy of an entire meal is adding something with protein or fat (preferably both). Nuts work perfectly, as do any kind of beans or lentils. This recipe calls for pecans, which are wonderful, but I usually use roasted pistachio nuts since they don’t need to be chopped. I was out of pistachios today since I ate so much kale last week (these things happen).

For me this meal is a perfect lunch. Alternatively you can serve it as a side dish and it can serve a few people. If you would like a little more substance serve it with lentils and brown rice or quinoa. I will sometimes have sardines or smoked mackerel or trout on the side.

Super Easy Kale With Pecans Recipe

Serves 1-3 people. 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale or chard
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or pistachios
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Sea salt to taste

Start by mincing your garlic, just to make it a tiny bit healthier. Rinse your greens and place them all on a cutting board oriented in the same direction. If the leaves have very thick stems you may want to remove them as explained here. Personally I buy greens that are fresh and tender enough that I rarely bother removing stems.

Pile the greens on top of each other. Starting at the tip of the leaves, cut 1 inch strips until you have cut the entire bunch. If you are using Tuscan or red Russian kale, a lot less chopping is necessary because the leaves are thin and only need be cut in one direction. If your leaves are wide, cut them into 1-2 inch squares. It’s okay if your greens are still wet, the water will help them steam.

Using a pan with tall sides and a lid, add the nuts and turn it on medium heat. Lightly toast the nuts, stirring regularly with tongs. After 2-3 minutes, add olive oil to the pan and allow it to heat up. Add your chopped greens to the pan, sprinkle generously with sea salt and toss with tongs. Cover.

Stir the greens occasionally so they don’t burn, always replacing the lid after stirring. Continue cooking the greens as they wilt and turn dark green. If they start to burn lower the heat, add 1-2 tbsp of water and cover again to steam.

Kale is done cooking when it is dark green and the stems are tender. Unlike spinach, it is very difficult to over-cook kale because it retains its crispness very well.  Before turning off the heat, use tongs to clear a space in the center of the pan and add your minced garlic in a single layer. Allow the garlic to cook until it becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds, then mix it up with the kale and nuts. Add half cup of beans or lentils at this point if desired.

Continue to cook greens uncovered for another minute or two. Taste test a leaf for saltiness and adjust to taste (be careful if you are using chard, it is naturally salty and easy to over-season).

Serve immediately.

Who loves kale as much as I do?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,