Veggie Broth

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to prepare for Thanksgiving in earnest this weekend. I did turkey broth a couple weeks ago and froze it (I used Bon Appétit‘s recipe), but I have some vegetarian dishes that need broth*, too. So, we went by the farmers market, got some lovely fresh, local vegetables, and got to work.

I kind of cobbled together this method a few months ago, and really liked the results, so I thought I’d share it. Keep in mind, though, that it’s really very flexible, and you can add or subtract ingredients based on what you have.

2 sweet potatoes
3 carrots
1 parsnip
2 leeks
1 onion
1 or 2 heads of garlic (the market had pretty small heads of garlic, so that’s why two)
6-8 oz. mushrooms

Chop everything very coarsely, leaving skins on. Toss with some olive oil and a little salt, and roast at 450° F until nicely browned, but not burnt (25-40 minutes). Add them to a stock pot, then deglaze the roasting pan with some white wine, and throw that in as well. Add

2-3 stalks celery
small bunch parsley
several peppercorns and allspice berries
a couple of whole cloves
1 or 2 bay leaves

and enough water to cover everything by about 2″. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about an hour and a half. The broth should be golden and flavorful. If you like, you can reduce it further. Strain, chill, and then freeze.

*I guess since it’s roasted it’s technically stock? I don’t know, I just use broth for everything.

Potato Gratin

This is a pretty simple side dish to make if you have a mandoline. If you don’t, then the slicing may get a bit tedious.

Serves 4

4 russet potatoes
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
1 bay leaf
1 small sprig of rosemary
3 thyme sprigs
1 1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground white or black pepper and nutmeg to taste
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1. Put all of the ingredients except for the potatoes and the cheeses into a pot and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter a 9″-square casserole, or you can go for a different shape around the same size. If you’re feeling French, you can first rub the pan all over with a cut clove of garlic.

3. Peel the potatoes, and slice them fairly thin, about 1/8″ (this is where the mandoline comes in). When you’re not working with them, keep the potatoes submerged in cold water so they don’t oxidize, but make sure you pat them dry before using them.

4. Arrange the potato slices in the pan, overlapping them, but keeping it to a single layer. Try to fit most of them in, but if your potatoes were on the large size you might have some left over. Strain the cream mixture, and pour it evenly over the potatoes. (If you taste the cream mixture, it will probably be delicious, but too salty. That’s okay, because the potatoes are as yet unseasoned, so it will all work out.)

5. Bake for 45 minutes, and then check it. The top should be browning a bit, and the potatoes should be cooked through (poke the center to make sure). In my experience, how long they take is highly dependent on how tightly packed your potatoes are, so give yourself some wiggle room, they may go longer.

6. Take them out of the oven, sprinkle with the cheese, and either put them back in for a few more minutes to get melty, or heat up the broiler and brown to desired crispiness.

Quick Bite

Squash and Radicchio Salad With Pecans from the Bon Appétit Thanksgiving issue. I made it as written to the best of my ability, given that I couldn’t find honeynut squash or Asian pears anywhere (I substituted red kuri squash and Roxbury russet apple). The vinaigrette was great, and the squash, apple, pecan, and cheese went really well together, but I did find the radicchio overpowering. I know it looks striking, but it’s just not that good all by itself. Next time I’ll make it half and half with Tuscan kale or something.

Chickpea Soup for All Souls’ Day

A little late, but, while we’re still in the right season, I wanted to share this soup, from The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, which is warm, hearty, vegetarian (in fact, vegan), and tons of flavor for very little effort. You do have to like chickpeas — seriously, it’s just a bowl of chickpeas — and you must use dried ones, not canned.

You’re probably going to look at the recipe and go ‘What? That’s so boring,’ but please, trust me. You are going to love this soup!

Serves 4-6

14 oz. dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in the refrigerator in water to cover by 2 inches
Cold water
1 1/2 TB extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium to large onion, minced
2 6-inch branches fresh rosemary
6 large fresh sage leaves
1 large bay leaf
1 large clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and put them in a soup pot. Add water to cover by 2 inches. Cover and bring to a slow simmer.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, rosemary, sage, and bay. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion is a deep golden color. Stir in the garlic and cook for a few seconds.

3. Stir in about 1/2 cup of the chickpea liquid into the onion pan, swish it around to pick up any brown bits, and dump everything into the chickpea pot. Simmer, covered, for 3 hours, or until the chickpeas are tender, but not falling apart. Season generously with salt (but not too generously – it should taste good, not salty) and simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes.

4. Remove the herbs, puree 2/3rds of the mixture in a blender, then stir it back into the pot. Adjust the seasoning, then ladle into bowls, topping with parsley, black pepper, and a little more olive oil if you like.

Okay, real talk: you don’t have to soak the chickpeas overnight. If you forgot or didn’t plan ahead, just go ahead with the recipe anyway. Ask me how I know. Also, the cooking time is kind of dependent on your chickpeas, but when I made it it only took two hours to cook to doneness. You don’t have to puree it (I didn’t this time), it’s honestly good either way, and it’s still good even if you completely forget the parsley, which I obviously did.

Cauliflower and Chickpea Tacos

My cooking method these days is often to get an idea of what I want to make, Google several recipes, and then combine the best parts of each recipe, adding stuff I like, and getting rid of stuff I don’t like. Then the next time I go to make that dish, I have to recreate the whole process, so, instead, here’s a quick and dirty (and delicious) cauliflower taco recipe reminder.

Two heads of cauliflower + one can of chickpeas. Olive oil, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, chipotle chili flakes (couple pinches), salt, pepper. 400° for 25 minutes. Serve with cabbage slaw (1/2 head cabbage + olive oil + lime juice (about half a lime) + cilantro and salt), crema or sour cream, avocado, and queso fresco. Might be good with some kind of toasted almonds next time. Also, maybe double it.

Sweet Potato Chili

My daughter has decided to eat less/no meat for the time being, and I’m now realizing that a lot of our autumn/winter comfort foods are very meat-forward. Fortunately, my mom has been a vegetarian (pescatarian if you’re being picky) for longer than I’ve been alive, and she has some really great recipes. This is based on her sweet potato chili, but I kind of went off on a tangent, because I just really love these cumin roasted sweet potatoes, okay?

Serves 4-6

4 TB peanut oil (divided)
2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 – 1 tsp berbere spice blend
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 28 oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes, depending on your texture preference
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup apple cider
2 15 oz. cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, leaves and stems
1/2 tsp fresh grated orange peel
Salt to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Toss the sweet potatoes with 2 TB of the oil, the cumin seeds, and some salt. Spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer, and roast for 40 minutes, turning them over halfway through. They should get pretty dark, but not charred. Remove from the oven and let sit while you make the rest of the chili (or roast them ahead of time, if you want).

2. Heat up the other 2 TB oil in a stew pot over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers, and sauté until golden and soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, berbere, and paprika, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, or until the paste thickens up and gets a little darker.

3. Add the tomatoes, broth, cider, beans, and salt to taste, and stir and scrape the bottom of the pan if you need to. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for ten minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and cumin seeds, and simmer for another 10 minutes.

4. Stir in the cilantro and orange zest, and cook for another minute or two. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve hot, with sour cream, cheese, cornbread, or whatever toppings you like on chili.

Notes: Berbere spice blends are going to vary, so taste yours first and add more or less depending on how spicy you like things. I did one heaping teaspoon, and it was on the edge of too spicy for me, but I’m like a medium spice white person, so, adjust accordingly. Also, this was very thick, so feel free to add more broth or water if you like it saucier.

Corn Chowder

This is just a souped-up (sorry/not sorry) version of Corn and Potato Soup, which my mom used to make us for lunch sometimes. It’s hearty, and can be made completely vegetarian, if that’s your thing. It’s fantastic with fresh corn, but it’s still delicious made with frozen corn.

Serves 4-6 for dinner

4 TB butter, olive oil, or a combination of the two
1 onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp each dried sage and thyme
6 red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-ish cubes
4 cups broth (veggie or chicken)
3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped flat parsley leaves

1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and cook until soft and golden. Add the garlic and herbs, and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.

2. Add the potatoes, stir everything, then add the broth, and crank the heat up to high. The broth should just barely cover the potatoes. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

3. Add the corn and the cream, and cook for five more minutes, or until cooked/heated through. Taste, and add salt and pepper, and more sage and thyme, if needed. Stir in the parsley and serve.

Notes: If you want to, you can start with about 4 oz. diced bacon instead of the butter. You can also use fresh herbs instead of, or in addition to, the dried ones. I don’t peel the potatoes, but you can, if you like. This time, I also threw in some diced sweet potato (that I did peel), about five minutes after the potato came to a boil.

Creamed Spinach and Swiss Chard

I made this the other day, and then baked some eggs in it. There are a few different methods for making creamed spinach, so I thought I’d just quickly share mine. You can use any of the softer greens, but it’s probably better if they’re not too bitter.

1. Start out by prepping your greens: wash and dry them, remove any stems and decide if you want to use them (I thinly slice the Swiss chard stems, for example), chop to your preferred fineness. Use more greens than you think you’ll need; I did five oz. of baby spinach, plus a bunch of chard, and it was only barely enough.

2. Sauté some sliced or chopped onion or leeks in a decent amount of butter, or you can start with some diced bacon, ham, or pancetta. If you’re using any stems, you can add them now. If you want spicier greens, toss in some finely chopped fresh chilies, or some dried ones. Cook your base until it’s browned a little or a lot, depending on your preference.

3. Throw in the greens, maybe in a couple of batches if your pan isn’t initially big enough. Season with salt, but less than you think, because they’re going to cook down. Cook them until they’re just wilty. If they’re really liquidy, you can boil some of it off if it bothers you. Add a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream, taste, and season with more salt if needed, pepper, and a little nutmeg. I like only a little cream, but you can always add more if you want.

4. Finish with some chopped fresh tomato, or some lemon or lime juice if it needs balancing.