roasted vegetables

roasted vegetables

I feel bad for taking such a long hiatus and returning with something as uninspiring as roasted vegetables. I’m assuming, like me, you’ve established a casual relationship with vegetables, only eating them because you’re a grownup and someone somewhere said you should. You could just focus on the vegetables that you like, but what about your family? More than once, I’ve peered over my shoulder while reaching for carrots only to find Martin shaking his head disapprovingly from across the produce section. If you too suffer from the disapproving glances cast by loved ones because of your choice in vegetable, then, I have a solution for you!

I’ve suffered many pans of poorly roasted vegetables. I’ve tried the roast the firm vegetables first and then add the softer vegetables later technique. And even with all the intermittent stirring and strategically timed adding of vegetables they still turned out okay. This just wasn’t working for me. Roasting vegetables should not be so labor intensive. Then I discovered this article: How to Master Roasted Vegetables.

I made brussels sprouts taste like butter.

Recipe:

Brussels sprouts
1 turnip (I’m not sure how this ended up in my house)
1 yam (This isn’t a real yam it’s just a variety of sweet potato that grocery stores label as “yam.” I just learned about this.)

I’ve also successfully roasted other vegetables such as: cauliflower, carrots, red bell pepper, and sweet potatoes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut Brussels sprouts in half (so the bottom part holding the leaves together is cut in half), peel (or not) the yam and cut into 1 inch cubes, cut the turnip into 1 inch cubes. Toss the veggies together in a bowl and season generously with salt. Pour in good olive oil and toss the veggies until theres a nice sheen on them, however not so much that oil pools on the bottom. Spread evenly on a baking sheet, try to avoid overlapping vegetables. Stick them in the oven. After about 10-12 minutes check on the veggies to see if they’re browning. I’ve found my veggies don’t really start browning until about 15-20 minutes or so in the oven. Once they start to brown, give them a stir and stick them back in, checking on them about every 5 minutes or so until they’re evenly browned. I’ve roasted them up to 30 minutes or so.

If they’re browning too fast and don’t feel soft enough, then turn the heat down until they’re soft. Turn the heat back up so they can caramelize.

Once they’re out of the oven you can season them with some pepper and herbes.

Cooking notes: Read the full article for more information on how to cut each type of vegetable and more tips on roasting. 

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blackened tilapia

This blog can be a little deceiving. I can easily convince you that I somehow know what I am doing and miraculously I end up with a half-decent meal on the table. Unfortunately, I often find myself with a strange medley of ingredients that I have to somehow combine to create an edible dinner. The process begins with text messages discussing what we have, what could easily be picked up or quickly made, whether we’ll be spending the night vomiting, and finally admitting that it is perhaps time to visit the grocery store. These concoctions don’t exactly make the cut for a blog-worthy meal. Martin likes to say that these posts belong on the other (non-existent) blog “what my wife really makes.”

However, once in a while, when I find myself with just the right ingredients, I can actually pull of something good. We found ourselves in the above situation a few nights ago but we’re lucky enough to sit down to a rather tasty dinner. I was reluctant to blacken tilapia, I like fish nice and light with just a few ingredients but I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe. We ate our fish with an arugula and beet salad, admittedly the poached egg on top was a bit much but we’re suckers for runny eggs.

Blackened Tilapia

3 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried ground thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp garlic powder
4 tilapia fillets
2 tbsp canola oil

In a small bowl combine all of the spices. Generously cover spice mix onto each fillet so that both sides are well coated. Allow the fish to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature prior to cooking. In a large cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is almost smoking add the fillets, 2 at a time and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Recipe Notes: If you like your fish spicy, I would recommend increasing the cayenne pepper, I thought it could use a bit of a kick. Be sure to carefully flip the fillets, they are delicate!

tomato basil pizza (for winter)

Martin came back! Hurray! It’s too bad that he only came for a few days and now has to head off to his next destination. While he was away enjoying English cuisine,  I tried to think of foods that he would miss at home. Fortunately for me, the bar was low. As long as I avoided fish and chips I could out-do London. I decided one of our favorite pizzas would be perfect, but with some modifications. We absolutely LOVE tomato basil pizza in the summer. Now that it’s cold and delicious tomatoes are nowhere to be found, I tried a homemade tomato sauce, with buffalo mozzarella and basil. I think we found our winter alternative for tomato basil pizza.

Also, if you were wondering, the name of this blog came about when making tomato basil pizza. However delicious the pizza would be the dough would always end up a little soft from all the watery ingredients. Martin would reassure me that the pizza was still amazing, but I’d always think it’s just too bad that I don’t have a professional brick oven that can reach 900 degrees. Alas, with my standard ol’ oven, I’ll always be 400 degrees from perfection…

Pizza Dough
Serves 3 (or 2 very full adults)

2 ¼ cups flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 heaping tsp active dry yeast
¾ cup lukewarm water (may need 1-2 tablespoons more)
1 ½ tsp olive oil

Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Knead everything into a ball for about a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl and turn the dough over to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it for an hour or two until it has doubled in size.

Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the dough into roughly a ball and let it sit under the plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, top with whatever toppings and seasonings you like. Bake for about 10 minutes.

Pizza Sauce

This is actually a tomato sauce to be eaten with pasta, but I liked how thick and textured it ends up being. Instead of a runny smooth sauce, I liked this thick and chunky sauce better for pizza. It’s also simple and doesn’t disrupt the simplicity of a traditional tomato basil pizza.

1 cup whole, peeled, canned plum tomatoes
2 ½ tbsp butter
½ of an onion
salt to taste
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Combine the tomatoes, their juices, butter and onion half in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a stead simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Break up large chunks of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and salt as needed. Discard onion half before serving.

Recipe Notes: There ended up being a lot of notes, so I’ve divided them into categories for easier reading. Apologies for the dissertation on pizza.

1. Refrigerating pizza dough: I have read that if you plan to let pizza dough sit for a while it is best to refrigerate it, bring it to room temperature and then proceed. However, I have never had good luck with refrigerated pizza dough. I find that it is not as pliable and is harder to work with. Generally, I avoid refrigerating dough. If you’ve had better luck, please do share!

2. Pizza stones: I know that there are good stones out there, I just don’t have one. I’ve been fine with using a baking sheet, but I know the results will be better with a stone. My mother has a Pampered Chef baking stone which I love and hope to inherit. I’ve also heard of people using  anything from ceramic tiles on the floor of their oven, to the bottom of clay pots. I haven’t tried these methods, so I can’t really say how well they work. Again, your insights are welcome!

3.  Pre-baking the dough: This has become my work around. If I’m making pizza with very moist/wet toppings such as tomato basil, I usually pre-bake the dough on it’s own for about 5-7 minutes. I’ll take the dough out, add toppings and continue to bake for another 5-7 minutes or until it’s bubbling, melty and irresistible.

4. Tomato sauce: This tomato sauce has been raved about, and I was expecting… more. Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful and perfect for this pizza. However, next time I’d add some garlic into the mix. I might also find higher quality canned tomatoes. Martin said the sauce tasted “earthy.” I have no idea what that means. He did however like it more than the store bought, overly sweetened variety.

5. Buffalo mozzarella: This is amazing! I know, it’s like $8.00 for a ball of cheese, but it is oh so good. It has a sharper flavor than… cow mozzarella, but is much softer and creamier. The sauce isn’t what shined in this pizza, it was the cheese. I’m pretty sure we’re going to go with buffalo mozzarella on our summer tomato basil pizzas as well. Also, I used the entire 8oz ball of mozzarella on the pizza.

daal

I have some sad news, I knew it was inevitable that this day would eventually come, I am all alone, Martin is gone. Okay not really, he’s just traveling and will be back Sunday, but still, I’m sad. You should be sad too because he reads, edits, and critiques all posts before they get to you. I apologize for the rough, unedited posts that are to come!

The slightly, oh so small good news is that I get to cook things that Martin doesn’t like to eat. However, depending on who you are, this could also be bad news. Be warned, I enjoy soups, vegetables and things without meat. Which means, I will begin with daal (lentils). This is perhaps Martins most loathed food. Honestly, I think he likes it more than he would want me to believe, but daal has come to represent all things soupy, vegetably and generally in the realm of “Kiran food.”  Good thing I have a few days to enjoy it.

Daal

1 cup masoor daal (red split lentils)
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cumin
1 tomato roughly chopped

1. Thoroughly rinse lentils, and add to a medium sized saucepan. Add water to the saucepan until the lentils are covered with roughly 1 inch of water.
2. Add remaining ingredients and cover and cook over medium heat.
3. Once the lentils begin to gently boil, reduce heat to simmer. Stir occasionally and skim off any foam that may form.
4. Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.

Recipe notes: I found the chili powder at a South Asian grocery store and I realize it is different form the chili powder you would find at most grocery stores. I believe cayenne pepper can be substituted for the chili powder, however, I would recommend ½ tsp cayenne pepper to begin with, adding more as desired.

roasted acorn squash

It’s been one of those weeks. I’ve spent more time shuffling from place to place than I have at home. Tonight will be night 3 of 5 that I will spend away from home. Right now, I’m grateful I was able to sleep in, and the goal for today is to shower (yeah, I know…I’m setting the bar low). I encountered my first major obstacle of the day, the fridge. There are about 5 varieties of cheese, buttermilk, an apple and some chicken concoction Martin has been eating while I’ve been away. I opened the door, looked inside, decided I wasn’t that hungry after all and returned to the nearest blanket. The second obstacle is that it is cold and rainy, and well, while we’re being honest – it’s 12:30 and I’m still in my pajamas, thus ruling out any chance I will be leaving until I absolutely have to.

I’m also hungry, but not in the let-me-be-creative kind of way. I want mac and cheese, and a steak, oh and some soup would be nice. I also want some creamy, warm and comforting acorn squash. Yeah, nothing sounds better on this rainy, chilly, fall day than acorn squash. Fortunately acorn squash is very easy to prepare.
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roasted acorn squash

1 small acorn squash
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Cut squash in half, remove seeds and membrane
3. Fill a baking dish with 1 inch of water (I used a square cake pan)
4. Place the squash cavity side up in the baking dish
5. Fill each cavity with 1 ½ tbsp butter and 1 tbsp brown sugar
6. Roast uncovered in oven for 1 hour
7. Cool and enjoy

Recipe notes: We had this at a friends house a while ago, and I have fallen in love with this simple and delicious recipe. Prepared this way, the squash has a sweet potato like flavor and texture. I personally am no sweet potato fan, but this I love. Also, don’t be like us and buy some pumpkin sized acorn squash – a small to medium one is perfect.