Works in Progress

February 1, 2012

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve made a few dishes whose results were pretty good, but not quite ready for prime time for one reason or another. But I figured I’d go ahead and share them anyhow, along with what I would change next time.

My first non-failure, but not-quite-there item was actually several iterations of fruit and nuts in phyllo dough. I had the rest of a box of phyllo dough to use up after making my Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions, Sundried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese in Phyllo. Since phyllo dough always makes me think of baklava (and I LOOOOOVE baklava), I thought it might be fun to make something baklavaian inspired. (I also love making up words.) So over the course of two weeks, I made three variations using different combinations of fresh apples, dried fruit, and nuts. All three tasted pretty good, but without extra butter, the phyllo dough didn’t brown well, and without extra honey to make it stick together, the layers of dough were pretty fragile. Extremely fragile. I also didn’t feel like I could eat that much of it at one time because dried fruit is fairly high in calories, so I think future phyllo dough experiments will be more along the lines of fresh fruit filling. But I have to say, it was all rather tasty, especially the final version, which was figs and dates. I just chopped up the fruit and nuts, brushed the top sheet of phyllo with some light melted butter mixed with agave, sprinkled the fruit on, and rolled it up. I brushed the top with a bit more butter and agave, and baked it at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Chopped Figs and Dates in Phyllo Dough

Chopped Figs and Dates in Phyllo Dough

My next item was inspired by a picture on one of the blogs I follow, which was too gorgeous to pass up – Lemony Chickpea and Tofu Stir-Fry on Offally Tasty (inspired in turn by a recipe from 101 Cookbooks). I bought the ingredients for the recipe, but when it came time to prepare the dish, I felt like making something more Asian-inspired (whims are a big part of my cooking). So I coated the chickpeas with a tablespoon of tamari and a couple of teaspoons of sesame oil, then baked them in the oven at 350 for about 55 minutes, stirring every fifteen minutes, to get them nice and crispy. I made some marinade with 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of tamari, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, and 5 minced garlic cloves, and marinated cubed tofu for about an hour in the refrigerator. Then I sautéed the onions and 2 sliced yellow squash in a teaspoon of sesame oil. I added about 3/4 of the marinade, and then piled torn pieces of a bunch of kale on top, and ‘folded’ them in until they wilted. Finally I added the remaining marinade and an extra teaspoon of sesame oil. Unfortunately, I didn’t take good enough notes as to timing (…and it’s possible I got some of the sequencing wrong in this write-up). But it was awesome tasting, so I’ll definitely repeat it.

Tofu, Squash, Kale, and Tamari Chickpeas

Tofu, Squash, Kale, and Tamari Chickpeas

The last dish was something that I conjured up because I wanted to make more caramelized onions, and needed something to go with them. I did some searches online and found a few pairings, including one with couscous, so I decided to go with that. I planned on using the great whole wheat pearled couscous I thought I had in the pantry, but I had apparently used it up, and unfortunately the Whole Foods I stopped at isn’t carrying it anymore. So plan C was Israeli couscous cooked in broth (not as much fiber, but still tasty). I also decided to use sun-dried tomatoes, and top it with gorgonzola cheese. The taste was really quite good, but next time I think I’ll add some greens, like chard or mustard greens, for more taste contrast (as well as more color).

Israeli Couscous with Caramelized Onions, Sundried Tomatoes and Gorgonzola

Israeli Couscous with Caramelized Onions, Sundried Tomatoes and Gorgonzola

Okay, I’ll be honest – this really turned out to be quartet of beets surrounded by a hedge of baby red kale.  Bed would be a bit of an exaggeration.  No matter how big the volume of greens I think I’m using, it always cooks down to much less than I anticipate.  I had a big bag of baby red kale and what I thought was three different colors of beets from the Boulder Farmers’ Market, so thought I would try roasting the beets and putting them on a bed of sautéed kale.

In the past, I have always committed the cooking atrocity of microwaving my beets.  I didn’t want to take the time to oven roast them. But every single time, I ended up overcooking them so they were sort of deflated by the time I took them out, and it was difficult to get them cooled down quickly, even in an ice bath.  So this time I committed to oven roasting them, and they turned out immeasurably better than my previous attempts.  It did take about 48 minutes for the beets I had, but they were worth it.  It was also a nice surprise to discover that I actually had four different colors of beets – red, golden, pinkish-golden,  and white with a bit of pink (or maybe that was just bleeding beet color from the other ones).  It made for a very colorful salad.

The baby red kale was easier to work with than ‘adult’ kale (I suppose ‘mature’ would be the appropriate term, but ‘adult’ amuses me).  Because the stems are so much thinner, I only removed the obviously large ones, instead of having to de-rib all of the leaves like you do for the larger kale.

Baby Red Kale and Beets

Quartet of Roasted Beets on a Bed of Baby Red Kale

serves 2

4 beets of assorted colors
1 to 2 large bag(s) of baby red kale
3 tsp olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp viniagrette dressing (optional)
salt and pepper
1 to 2 oz goat cheese

Preheat oven to 375.  Remove greens from beets, and scrub clean.  Leave peels on.  Take a piece of aluminum foil big enough to form a sealed packet around all of the beets, and place the beets on the middle of one half of the sheet. Drizzle with 1 tsp of olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Fold the aluminum foil in half, and then fold the edges up to seal the packet.  Place the aluminum foil on a baking sheet,put it in the oven, and set the timer to start checking them at about 25 minutes.  When the timer goes off, pull the baking sheet out, open the foil (the foil won’t be hot once you remove it from the oven, so you can touch it to open the edges, but don’t forget that the baking sheet WILL be hot!). Check the beets by pricking them with a fork.  You want them to be tender, but not mushy.  My beets took 48 minutes, but it will vary depending on their size.  When they are done, put them in an ice water bath to stop them from cooking further (just a bowl with some water and ice in it). Once the beets are cool, slice them.

Saute the garlic in 1 tsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, about 1-2 minutes.  Add another 1 tsp of olive oil, the kale and the balsamic vinegar.  Saute the kale by using a motion similar to folding eggs into batter.  Cook until the kale is wilted, but still bright green.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Put the kale on a plate, and then arrange the beets on top. Drizzle with 1 tsp of vinagrette dressing if desired, and top with dollops of goat cheese.

Beets on a bed of Baby Red Kale

Nothing says ‘classy picture’ like a striped tea towel as a background, wouldn’t you agree?  Seriously, I need a real camera and a nicer background.  But if you concentrate on the center beet, it is kind of hypnotizing, and takes your focus away from the towel.

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