FRESH TAKE ON FARRO WITH ROASTED VEGGIES

Grains and roasted veggies are a classic combination, one that I like a lot and shows up at our table on a regular basis. But lately I’ve incorporated a small extra step into it, and it is a game changer.  Interesting expression, by the way. From my “foreign perspective”, it is not necessarily a good thing.  After all, if the game is going well, a game changer would ruin it.  But the term, adopted by the Oxford dictionary very recently (2012), always has a positive connotation. Which makes it perfect to describe the addition of fresh veggies right before serving this dish. Game-changing. I promise.

FARRO WITH ROASTED VEGGIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup farro
5 carrots, peeled and cut in sticks
bunch of asparagus
drizzle of olive oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
yellow grape tomatoes, cut in half
fresh lemon juice to taste

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil.  Add the farro and cook (as if cooking pasta) until al dente. Cooking time will depend on many factors, start checking at 25 minutes, it might take 40 minutes or a tad longer. When cooked to your liking, drain and reserve.

Coat the carrots with a bit of olive oil, season with paprika, salt and pepper. Roast uncovered in a 420F oven for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. Lay they on a microwave-safe dish, season very lightly with salt and sprinkle with lemon juice. Add a paper towel on top to cover them lightly. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve.

When the carrots are almost done roasting, add the asparagus and gently mix them. If necessary, add a touch more of olive oil. Roast the two veggies together for a final 5 minutes. Immediately add the fresh tomatoes, toss all veggies together, and place in a serving dish together with the farro. Adjust seasoning and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: First, let me say that cooking farro as if it’s pasta (freely swimming in a huge pool of water), is another game changer. The problem with farro is that if you go by a specific ratio of water to grain, sometimes you hit the jackpot (that is the grain is perfectly cooked when the water is absorbed), but sometimes it is either too hard or mushy.  This method takes all the guessing out of it, you cook, you test it as the cooking goes along, and when it reaches the level you like, it’s over. Drain it, and incorporate in any recipe you like.

As to the veggies, I realize this is a little more involved than roasting a bunch of them together and calling it a day. The thing is, I am not too fond of the woody texture that the asparagus gets when simply roasted. With braces, the situation gets even worse. So I use my favorite method of preparing them, a very brief encounter with the microwave, and then finalizing in the oven. It gets the best of both worlds.

Finally, the fresh component. The real game-changing bit. Amazing what that does to a roasted veggie concoction. It brightens up the flavors, and makes the whole thing taste quite a bit lighter. You can use tomatoes of any color, diced cucumber, radishes, kalamata olives, and guess what? Grapes! Seedless grapes, cut in half. You will be surprised how well they pair with roasted veggies. I intend to try strawberries next. Why not, right? With a little rose harissa just to take it truly over the top…

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ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH CASHEW NUTS

Recipes for roasted veggies are always so similar, coat veggies with olive oil, season any way you particularly like, roast. Done. But this one has a little unexpected (to me) twist. Instead of olive oil, you’ll use butter. I know, so out of fashion, so frowned upon by the Health Police. This method was featured on a recent America’s Test Kitchen TV show, and I was obviously intrigued. I modified it a bit to our taste. The butter helps that gorgeous browning and adds a nutty flavor that goes well with the cashews.  It all works beautifully.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH CASHEW NUTS
(inspired by America’s Test Kitchen)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut in slices (about 2 pounds)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground paprika
for cashew topping:
1 tablespoons butter
⅓ cup cashew nuts
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss squash slices with melted butter, season with  salt and paprika until evenly coated. Arrange seasoned slices on a rimmed baking sheet, if possible in a single layer, but some overlapping is ok. Roast for about 25  minutes, flip pieces and roast 15 minutes longer.

While squash roasts, melt butter with cashew nuts in a small skillet.  Cook until cashews start to get golden, keep a close eye on the pan. It will burn if you leave it cooking for longer than a couple of minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir lemon juice. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Transfer roasted squash to a serving dish, mix with the sautéed cashews and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I talked about this recipe on my Facebook page, and a dear friend mentioned that she had a similar dish at a restaurant and loved it, but in that preparation they included crumbled feta on top. I know exactly how I’ll make it next time, and urge you to do so if you make it yourself. Sounds perfect to me.

The butter definitely makes the roast butternut quite special, as it cooks in the oven it gets that “browned butter” quality that is so wonderful both in savory and sweet dishes. I know many people are anti-butter these days, but there’s nothing wrong with using it every once in a while in a dish like this one. Totally worth it.

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ROASTED VEGGIES WITH QUESO COTIJA DRESSING

roasted-veggies-with-cotija

I hope it’s not a faux-pas to blog about too many takes on roasted veggies. Is anyone keeping track, though?  But I cannot help it, not only the weather is perfect for turning the oven on, but roasted veggies go well with pretty much any main dish, from beef to seafood, and if you like to go vegetarian, they can be the star of the show.  I saw this recipe featured in a PBS cooking show that is new to me, Pati’s Mexican Table. Like Marcela Valladolid, Pati cooks Mexican food, but with a more down to earth demeanor. She has an adorable accent, and that friendly aura that captivates the viewer right away. Anyway, this is such a simple recipe, you can memorize it in a second (quiz to follow) : equal parts of orange juice, lime juice, and olive oil. Salt and pepper. You are done. Then, there’s the Cotija dressing, but no quiz on that one, because I am a kind teacher, and want you to get an A+.

roastedveggies

 

ROASTED BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER WITH QUESO COTIJA DRESSING
(adapted from Pati’s Mexican Table)

for the veggies:
1/4
 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium head of broccoli cut into 1/4″ vertical slices
1 medium head of cauliflower cut into 1/4″ vertical slices

for the dressing:
1/2 cup crumbled queso Cotija
1/2 cup Mexican crema
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons water
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 475 degrees F. 

Mix the lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl. Whisk very well to combine.

Brush 2 large baking sheets with olive oil. Place the broccoli and cauliflower on each baking sheet, making sure that it is well spread out and not crowded. Evenly pour the orange juice mixture all over the vegetables.  Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping once in between, until well roasted and considerably charred. Remove from the oven. 

While the veggies are roasting, combine in the jar of a blender the queso cotija, Mexican crema, vegetable oil, sherry vinegar, water, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth, adjust with water if desired. 

Serve the broccoli and cauliflower and ladle the queso cotija right on top, or pass the sauce at the table so that everyone can add as much as they want. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

composite

 

Comments: What made me want to try this recipe was the unusual way to slice the veggies. Vertically, including the stems. Essentially no waste, and they look so cute laying flat on the baking sheet. That also gives a nice amount of char all over, which means a ton of flavor. The citric component gets intensified by reduction, the veggies tender but still retaining some bite.  The Cotija dressing is super flavorful. The recipe makes more than needed for a light drizzle all over the veggies. Leftover keeps quite well in the fridge and next day you can drizzle over avocados, tomatoes, or even some grilled meat.

Speaking of grilled meat, we paired these saucy grilled veggies with grilled pork tenderloin, for a delicious, quick and easy dinner.

served

Life is good…

and now for the quiz. What do we add to the veggies before roasting them at 475 F?
No cheating!
😉

Note to self: adapt this recipe for the steam-roasting technique from Fine Cooking. Maybe using just the florets will work better in that case. Worth playing with, that’s for sure.

roasted-veggies-with-cotija-dressing-from-bewitching-kitchen

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TWO UNUSUAL TAKES ON ROASTED VEGGIES

I guess it is the season to turn the oven on at high temperatures and help the house stay warm. Do I like this weather? What do you think? I despise it. BUT, I do love roasted veggies, so I try to concentrate on that instead of the fact that someone decided to make repairs in the heating system of our building and the labs were freezing from Christmas break all the way through the first week of January.  I could see my breath while working, and confess to snapping at a couple of colleagues who had the nerve of greeting me with a  “Good morning, Sally.”  Anyway, I digress. Roasted veggies are a beautiful thing, and today I share two recipes, both delicious, but the second one, the second one blew my little mind away! I kept munching on those little morsels of deliciousness and beating myself for never trying them before.  Without further ado, Roasted Pears and Parsnips and…. drum roll… drum roll increasing…. drum roll at maximum blast:  Roasted Radishes. Now, do not leave. Do not. Even if you hate radishes with all your being. Trust me. You need to roast them. You just do.

roasted-parsnips-and-pears

ROASTED PEARS AND PARSNIPS
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1-1/2 lb. parsnips cut into 1-inch pieces
2 firm pears, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbs.  olive oil
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic)
1 tsp Herbes de Provence

Heat oven to 425 F.

Toss the parsnips and pears with the oil, paprika, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt.

Roast the vegetables in the oven until tender and browned, about 25 minutes. Toss with the vinegar and Herbes the Provence. Adjust seasoning and serve. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: As I was composing this post, I noticed a new blog entry by my dear friend Maureen, from Orgasmic Chef. She professed her love for Jacques Pepin (we are twin sisters, obviously) and included a short video with our guru talking about what constitutes a recipe, and how we should never follow it blindly. So many variables at play, if you follow a recipe without being aware of its ultimate goal (taste great), you might be doomed for failure. I strongly suggest you visit her post and watch the short video.

These roasted parsnips and pears are a perfect example of Pepin’s wise lesson.  First of all, I think of all fruits, pears might be the most finicky to cook with. So many different kinds, if the recipe doesn’t specify which one to use, you could already be set for trouble. Plus, even if a specific type is called for, its level of ripeness will have a huge impact on the outcome. In my first time making this dish, I used regular white pears with light green skin. They were ripe, not overly so, but definitely ripe. What happened is that they were a bit too soft once the parsnips were perfectly cooked. The taste was superb, but had I thought more carefully about it, I would have added the pears a mere 10 minutes before serving time. On my next attempt, I intend to use Bosc pears and roast them from the beginning with the parsnips. They are very sturdy and will stand better to the oven. But don’t let this small detail prevent you from making this unusual veggie roast. It turned out spectacular, paired very well with a juicy, medium-rare standing rib roast, lovingly prepared by my perfect match.

dinner-served

And now, let’s talk radishes, shall we? Let’s suppose when you see a bag of radishes you look the other way, and your lips pucker a little just thinking of how harsh they are. Do not let that prevent you from making this. Talk about a full transformation by heat, that’s what it is. Magic in radish form.

roasted-radishes

ROASTED RADISHES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 bag of radishes (or any amount to serve two)
olive oil to coat
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper
water
squirt of lemon juice

Heat the oven to 400F.

Cut each radish in half, if you have very large ones in the bag, quarter them.  Place in a bowl and drizzle olive oil to coat them. Season with paprika, salt and pepper.

Place as a single layer on a baking dish, add about one tablespoon of water, cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place in the oven and roast, covered for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for 15 to 20 minutes more, moving them around occasionally, until fully tender and starting to get golden brown.  Squirt lemon juice right before serving, not too much, just a light drizzle.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I own several cookbooks that include recipes for braised radishes.  I promptly ignored them all. Who would braise a radish, I kept asking myself? Radishes are supposed to be enjoyed raw. Thin slices over baguette smeared with the best possible quality butter, seasoned with salt flakes. That is the way it’s done. So, why did I finally roast these babies? I was browsing a forum on ketogenic recipes, and people were going nuts about them. Granted, it was a more substantial version, one that goes around the net as “Loaded Radishes.”  It is radishes plus olive oil plus butter plus cheese plus bacon. I kid you not. I was not that interested in the super high fat content, but what intrigued me was that every single person who made it compared the radishes to potatoes in taste. Gone was the sharp, almost bitter taste that makes radish… a radish!  I had to find out if they were onto something, so I more or less used the steam-roasted method of my recent past, and came up with this recipe. It is absolutely delicious, and yes, think about very light potatoes, and you’ll be on the right taste path. Of course, braised radishes will be on our menu very soon. I just know I’ll fall in love with them too…

Note to self: a mind open is a beautiful mind.

two-takes-on-roasted-veggies-from-bewitching-kitchen

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