Roasted Carrots & Cumin: Two Ways

Carrot and cumin is a flavor pairing worth tattooing into your brain. A delicious marriage earthy sweetness and warm spice, the duo brings an aromatic flourish to the simplest of dishes (think: roasted vegetables and pureed soups). Here, dressed simply in olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper, the homely carrot is roasted at high heat until it becomes tender, attaining a deep, smoky caramelization that is steered savory by the cumin spice. Whether devoured straight from the baking sheet, served as a side dish, or pureed into a creamy soup, cumin-scented carrots will always treat the tastebuds.  

[Recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything]
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 35 minutes

1 to 1 ½ pounds baby carrots, green tops tripped, or full-sized carrots, cut into sticks
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds (you can also use ground cumin)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put the carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil; sprinkle with the cumin and salt and pepper. Roast until the carrots are tender and browning, about 25 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

*The cumin-scented carrots can also be pureed into a deliciously silky soup...


Prepare recipe for Roasted Carrots with Cumin, doubling the measurements. In a large pot heat olive oil and add 1 diced onion (about 1 cup). Sauté until onion is soft and beginning to brown. Add 2 – 2 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth, the roasted carrots, plus 2 tsp ground coriander and additional ground cumin, as preferred. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the soup to a smooth consistency. Thin with more chicken broth if soup is too thick. Stir well and garnish with more freshly ground black pepper and walnuts. 


Homemade Butternut Squash Gnocchi

A recent acquisition of Yvette von Boven's book Home Made has bolstered my courage to dive into more DIY kitchen projects -- an approach to cooking that, for a curious cook, is both enlightening and self-satisfying. The book contains an entire section on making pasta from scratch, which, compared to building a homemade smoker, falls into the category of "more accessible" (especially given the confines of my apartment).  Since most of the more noodle-y pastas (spaghetti, linguini, etc.) require an appliance I lack, I went with gnocchi -- what I like to call the "gateway drug" into homemade pasta-making. Loving that von Boven's butternut version puts a spin on the classic recipe, I picked up some squash and rolled up my sleeves...


Roasting the butternut squash brings out the best of its sweet flavor, but despite it's starchy nature, the squash emerges a tad too wet to be rolled into a dough. Flour supplies the solution, lending a hearty hand to bolster the butternut's molten flesh and absorb the excess moisture. (Home Made's recipe calls for bread flour, however, I substituted whole wheat in my version.) The dough is very sticky and slightly difficult to roll into ropes, though showering the work surface generously with flour helps solve the problem. Despite the irregular shape of my pasta (which, gives them a charming character, mind you), these nougats exude the color and flavor of butternut squash. Flecked with fresh parmesan, sage and pepitas, the melding of flavors is divine.

 [Adapted from Yvette von Boven's Home Made]

1 butternut squash (approx. 2 lb)
1 egg yolk
1 - 1.5 cups whole wheat flour 
(2/3 cup bread flour, type 00 is called for in the original recipe)
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1-2 Tbsp freshly chopped sage 
toasted pepitas, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the butternut squash, cut in half, remove the seeds and pulp with a spoon. Slice the squash into 1/2-inch pieces and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt and bake for about 30 minutes, or until tender. 

2. When the squash has cooled a bit, press it through a potato ricer, or mash with a hand blender / food processor until smooth. 

3. On a clean work surface, add egg yolk and flour to the squash. Mix using your hands (or a fork -- it will be very sticky). Season the mixture with nutmeg, pepper and salt. Note: If the mixture is too wet, add more flour, but be careful not to add too much or else the gnocchi will become tough. 

4. To roll the gnocchi: spread flour over a large work surface (make sure your hands are well-dusted too) and roll the dough into thin ropes. You may need to divide the dough and work in batches. Cut the dough rope into small even pieces with a floured knife. (At this point sometimes people like to roll the pieces over a gnocchi board or the back of a fork to make a cool imprint. I opted out of this step. On to the cooking...)

Note: Save the gnocchi on a flour-dusted baking sheet and cover with a dish towel until used. 

5. When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil and cook in small batches. The gnocchi will float when they are cooked -- it shouldn't take more than 4-5 minutes. Drain the gnocchi and drizzle with olive oil. Top with grated parmesan, sage and toasted pepitas as preferred. 


Glazed Cipollini Onions with Almonds

Cipollini onions (pronounced chip-oh-lee-knee) are undeniably the cutest sibling in the Allium family. The bite-size bulbs just beg to be popped in your mouth one after the next. Here they are lightly browned, then bathed in a red wine vinegar and honey reduction and cooked until they nearly melt in your mouth. The glaze brings out the onions' natural sweetness and a scattering of slivered almonds adds crunch to complete the dish.


1 lb cippolini onions
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
slivered almonds, for garnish

1. To remove the cipollini skins: Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and blanch onions for about a minute. Drain and let cool; peel away skins.

2. Heat oil over medium in a cast-iron skillet. Add peeled cipollinis and saute until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add honey and vinegar; stir to coat. Top off with enough water to cover the onions and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a glaze (about 20-30 minutes).

3. Add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with slivered almonds.

For a tasty open-face sandwich: Slice the onions and serve atop hearty multi-grain toast schmeared with cottage cheese. 


A Feast for the New Year

Dinner menu for New Year's Eve: a luxuriously smooth pureed parsnip soup, a vibrant kale salad and a pork tenderloin drunk with the flavors of balsamic and currants. Cheers to 2012.


4-5 medium parsnips (about 4 cups chopped)
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more to drizzle
1 medium yellow onion
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup almond milk, plus more as preferred
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsp ground cardamom
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp maple syrup

1. Peel parsnips and remove tough woody core. Chop into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside. 

2. Halve a medium onion, peel it and cut roughly into sixths (no need to be precise). 

3. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat; add onion, and saute until soft and brown, about 5 minutes. Add chopped parsnips to the pan and saute with the onion until parsnips begin to brown slightly. 

4. Add 2 cups vegetable broth and 1/2 cup almond milk, plus more as desired. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and 2 tsp ground cardamom. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until parsnips are soft, about 10-15 minutes. 

5. When parsnips are soft, remove from heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender (or food processor / regular blender) until you reach a smooth consistency. 

6. Serve with caramelized shallots as garnish. To prepare: thinly slice 2 shallots and saute with olive oil until soft; add 1 tsp maple syrup and cook until browned and caramelized. 


2 large bunches kale, deveined and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh parmesan, grated
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup roasted cashews, crushed
2 shallots, thinly sliced
olive oil
maple syrup
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)

1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium and add kale to the pan in batches. Season with salt and pepper to taste, sautéing until greens are wilted. Remove to a medium bowl and repeat process until all of the kale is cooked. Squeeze juice from 1/2 lemon into the bowl of kale and allow to cool. Refrigerate if preparing ahead. 

2. When ready to serve, remove kale mixture from fridge and toss with fresh parmesan, currants and cashews. Set aside. 

3. In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium and add 2 thinly slice shallots, stirring frequently until soft and beginning to brown. Drizzle with maple syrup and allow the shallots to caramelize. Remove from pan and serve atop the kale salad. 

[Adapted from Cooking Creation]

2 pork tenderloins

Spice Rub
olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup red currant jelly
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2-3 tsp orange zest
1 tsp freshly chopped parsley
1/2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary
1/2 tsp freshly chopped thyme
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine ingredients for dry spice rub in a small bowl. Rub the pork with olive oil and then massage the spices into the meat evenly. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and brown the pork on all sides to get an even sear. 

2. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 30 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 140 degrees. Turn over after 15 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and place the pork on a plate or cutting board. Cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. 

3. In the same skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken broth and deglaze the pan. Stir in jelly and balsamic vinegar. Add orange zest, herbs, and salt & pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes, until sauce is slightly reduced. 

4. To serve, slice the tenderloins into medallions and pour sauce over the pork.