Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quick Miso Brussel Sprouts with Roasted Almonds

Brussel sprouts had, for years, been on my short list of foods I didn’t like… and therefore didn’t make (a list I carefully did not share with our girls as they grew up, lest they craft one of their own). I actually abhorred the smell of brussel sprouts as a child and, quite frankly, didn’t realize until much later in life that their offending odoriferous quality could be quelled by simply cooking them up quick. And flavoring them up properly could even trump their less-than-favorable stench if opting for a longer roast. It really wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered just how good these little doll-size cabbage heads could be when roasted whole or sliced thin for an interesting salad.

A recent trip to Whidbey Island, located in the Puget Sound, approximately 30 miles north of Seattle, was yet another mental nudge to keep brussel sprouts in the mix. Along with Whidbey’s Monet-like landscapes and picture-perfect vistas, a friend and I had an inspired meal at Christopher’s in Coupeville.

At Christopher's, we ordered brussel sprouts as a side and asked to have the bacon omitted... sure they would scoff at this request. While I might have strayed from my usual no-meat stance, my friend was the one ordering and she is far more diligent in her food footing than I. Surprisingly, there was no scoffing and the sprouts were still delicious … cooked al dente (if you think pasta)… with some bite left in them. They had great flavor, an umami that I thought may have been bacon-rendered even though we nixed this ingredient (!!).  What was particularly appealing was their freshness… more like a warm salad than a veggie.

Thinking about how to recreate this umami quality without bacon, we concluded it would be possible with a little white wine, some miso, and a touch of broth.

And… being a bit of a detail girl and believer in the “how” of how you do things (the cut you make, the layering of flavor, the method of heat, etc.), thinly slicing these brussel sprouts lengthwise with a bit of the core intact keeps the crunch in this side.

 I love it when a trip produces both beautiful vistas and veggies to take with you to enjoy long after you return home.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Maple-Rosemary Roasted Pear Bruschetta {for Stemilt Growers}

With Fall happily upon us, apples and pears are bountiful, beautiful… and brimming with sweet flavor. And though October is officially National Apple Month… I want to give pears a little love too. In thinking of what I might offer the folks over at Stemilt, I immediately thought of the coming holidays and the many nibbles that will be served up to friends and family over the next weeks and months. With so many different palates and dietary restrictions to consider, I tend to lean toward appetizer platters... a spread of goodies that are easy to put together and present a few offerings that can mix, mingle or get noshed on their very own. And there’s nothing better than including seasonal fruits in the mix. Many times I’ll just slice and serve them up fresh, especially apples and pears, as a complement to a mix of cheeses, nuts, and crackers or fresh bread.

This time, I decided to create a Maple-Rosemary Roasted Pear Bruschetta, using Stemilt’s delicious Bosc pears. With just a few ingredients and a short visit to the oven, these fresh pears roast up beautifully for a savory-sweet topping to crisp baguette slices… slathered with a brie-blue cheese, sweet fig jam or a slice of delicate prosciutto. Guests can build their bruschetta any way they’d like… you really can’t go wrong.  And with some dried cranberries and candied walnuts offered alongside, it only gets better.

These roasted pears are so good on their very own… as part of this bruschetta offering… OR (if you are lucky enough to have any left over… or plan it that way), they are a delicious add to butternut squash. Hold just a few halves aside… add them to some roasted butternut squash and roasted red onion, a little broth, some salt and pepper and, voilĂ , you have dinner… a flavorful Roasted Pear-Butternut Squash Soup! It’s so simple, easy…  and pearfectly delicious! It’s my favorite squash soup for this season.

Head over to The Stem for details on roasting up these delicious Stemilt bosc pears.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spicy Lentil Soup

The past year has been a whirlwind of activity that has kept me happily tied to my kitchen, developing recipes and just plain cooking for family and friends. It’s also been a year heavily consumed by the planning of a wedding; a great celebration that took place just more than a week ago… and one that completely grabbed my time and complete attention the entire month of September (in a great way).  With our oldest daughter happily wed, we returned home to host family staying on after the big day… presenting a great opportunity to head out to one of our favorite destinations: Hood River and lunch at Celilo Restaurant.

On this particular visit we all had the Spicy Lentil Soup. When I asked our server what created the “spice” in this particular soup she said it was made with onion, carrot and celery.  Hmmm. I needed another approach. I said the soup sounded delicious and asked if she knew if there were any chili peppers in the soup… to which she said she’d ask the chef for more details. Bingo. She came back with there’s cumin and a little cinnamon. Not exactly a treasure trove of information but enough when combined with a taste test. I think this might be my favorite lentil soup… for the moment. I love that little add of cinnamon… so unexpected and not necessarily discernable… but I truly believe in those pinches of flavor that add a subtle, yet important note to the end result. I can’t recall if there were any peppers in the Celilo soup but I added both roasted piquillos and sweet red peppers (from jars) and found they add a perfect little pop of flavor and subtle heat.

This is really a very simple lentil soup that is built upon a good sautĂ© of veggies and a combination of dried spices that add that discernable “spice” to the soup’s name… along with that onion, carrot and celery!