Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Shared Plates II: Spinach Salad, Roasted Squash, Swiss Chard on Toast and Sauteed Broccoli

For a minute there, while I was living on the east coast, I seemed to forget a bit about the food politics of the northwest. In this little corner of the world, it really does always seem to be about fresh, local, sustainable. I think here, maybe more than any other place in this country, people are adverse to processed food that come in packages or have been grown with the aid of pesticides. Many take it one step further, and if food was grown by anyone outside of your state (or county) it might as well be toxic sludge. It's pretentious, and a lot of the time we end up sticking our foot in our mouth, (there are more than a few restaurants that, while they tout fresh local ingredients seem to throw the fresh-local-sustainable shtick out the window for a scallop from Maine) to the point I sometimes think we should all say "Fresh, sustainable and local, unless it's exotic, sells well, and I can't get it locally" or "Fresh, sustainable and local but make sure my wine is from Italy!" and I will be the first to admit I indulge in that behavior.

Hypocrisy aside, as my favorite comic book heroine says "It ain't all bad." I've cut down eating processed vegan goodies like Gardien products and Daiya shreds and am opting to eat what is readily available in my area on a regular basis, and trust me when I say my taste buds aren't suffering. I make a good deal of what Anthony Bourdain might deem "Peasant food," and, if Tal Ronnen could see my fridge now he would likely ream me out for making food reminiscent of Angelica Kitchen in the '70's and insist I get with the times. But you know what? I like my hippie peasant food, thank you very much, and I intend to keep it. Sometimes, I think we get so fixated on improving or changing something we forget how good vegetables can be in their natural state. This is the sentiment I kept in mind when I had a few good friends over for dinner the other night, and we had a lovely simple dinner of spinach salad, baked maple Delicata squash, sauteed broccoli, chard on toast and kale crisps.

Spinach Salad
1 bunch washed spinach
1 1/2 cup walnuts (or pecans)
2 Tbs maple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 Tbs olive oil
Fresh cracked black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss walnuts in maple syrup and herbs and spread on a baking sheet. bake for 12-15 minutes, turning once, until toasted brown. in a bowl, whisk lemon juice and olive oil. Plate spinach, top with walnuts, pour a few tsp dressing on salad and top with fresh cracked pepper. 

Delicata Squash
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs maple syrup

Heat oven to 350. Slice off bottom and top nubbins of the squash and slice the rest into half inch rounds. Spoon out the seeds and innards (I used the base of a spoon). Toss squash in olive oil, place in a small glass baking pan, drizzle maple syrup over the squash and mix until squash is coated. Cover the pan with foil wrap and bake for 30-40 minutes until tender. there's no need to skin the squash, as Delicata is a thin skinned squash, the skin can be eaten.

Sauteed Broccoli
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs olive oil

Steam broccoli until bright green and tender but still firm and crunchy. Drain and place in cold water. In a medium skillet heat olive oil until just smoking. Saute garlic and red pepper flakes, until garlic is cooked but not browned. Drain broccoli and place in skillet and cook with garlic for one minute. take off heat, add lemon juice, salt and pepper. 

Kale Crisps with Sumac
1 large bunch kale, stemmed and ripped into 3” pieces
1 Tbs olive oil
¼ tsp coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp dried sumac
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

In a large bowl, toss kale (make sure kale is dry), oil, and seasoning until kale is well coated. Spread kale on cookie sheets in a single layer and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until crispy but not burned

Swiss Chard on Toast
One large bunch of Swiss chard, roughly chopped
one large shallot, finely chopped
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/4 tsp sel de gris or other medium grain salt

In medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Saute shallots until translucent. Add spices and chard and toss until coated. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until chard has cooked down and is very tender, about 15-20 minutes. While cooking, toast 4 nice big pieces of crusty bread (such as french). "Butter" your toast (I used earth balance). When Chard is tender, top the toast with chard. I think this would also be bomb-diggity with some vegan Hollandaise sauce (also, I think The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen has his recipe for Hollandaise sauce between the covers, and that sauce is the shit), but I have yet to go that route. 

Plate all and eat your heart out

Serves 4

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