november 18 – fall table

Farm Fresh

beets, carrots, cauliflower, collard greens, cucumbers, escarole, kale, mushrooms, parsley, peppers, winter squash

What’s for Dinner?

What an exciting week in my food world! The giant Thanksgiving feast is right around the corner, and it’s the first week of my winter CSA! I had a lovely spring and summer enjoying Gathering Together Farm’s CSA bounty. As with most farms, they take a long winter’s nap, starting sometime in November. But there’s really no reason for these winter months (the “dark months”…) to bring emptiness, disappointment, or bewilderment to your meal planning efforts. Against popular thought, the Northwest does grow amazing and abundant produce in the winter and early spring months! AND, there’s a CSA that accumulates this wealth, and delivers it right to my doorstep! I am a happy Hood River Organic (HRO) CSA member…check them out. And speaking of winter abundance, check out what the Portland Farmers Market has going on this season. The perfect chilly-weather Saturday – indulge in some steaming coffee and scrumptious farm fare, peruse the vendors to pick up your week’s dinner delights, then hit a movie at Fox Tower, a PAM exhibit, or some Nordstrom shopping!

Time to enlist my (somewhat) trusty kitchen helpers, and see where our inspiration and energy take us this week. Starting with the pie, of course.

Friday – pizza night

roasted cauliflower & mushroom pizza (Bev Cooks)
beet salad with goat cheese & walnuts (Jennifer Segal, Serious Eats)

Saturday – steak & collards + “pasta”

sautéed collard greens with red pepper (Food Network)
spaghetti squash with garlic & parmesan (Steamy Kitchen)
grilled new york steak

Sun – magical curry

beet and beef curry (Salon)
basmati rice/naan

Monday – pad thai, squash style

spaghetti squash pad thai (Shared Appetite)

Tuesday – pies on the mind

honey glazed carrots (Food Network)
salmon cakes

Wednesday –  pre-feast soup night 

roasted butternut squash and pear soup (The Daily Green)
escarole, orzo, & meatball soup (Deb Perleman, The Smitten Kitchen)
crusty bread

Thursday –  the feast, veggie style

hors d’ oeuvres
beet spread with goat cheese & hazelnuts (Yotam Ottolenghi)

salad
northwest autumn kale salad (Simply Classic, Seattle Junior League)

veggie sides
brown sugar glazed squash with marshmallows (Bon Appetit)
sausage & mushroom stuffing (Diane Morgan)
rustic garlic & shallot mashed potatoes (Bon Appetit)
spiced cranberry sauce (The Splendid Table)

dessert
pumpkin pie (Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food)
perfect pecan pie (Cook’s Illustrated
simplest apple tart (Alice Waters)

_____________________________________________

Friday – pizza night

roasted cauliflower & mushroom pizza (Bev Cooks)
beet salad with goat cheese & walnuts (Jennifer Segal, Serious Eats)

Since I didn’t get a ton of cauliflower this week, I thought it was perfect for a pizza topper! Combined with my Hood River crimini mushrooms, this pizza is sure to be fantastic. IMG_1084Follow this previous Pizza Night post for a no-fail dough recipe I rely on each week. It makes enough for two pizzas, even three if rolled out in the super thin, best-for-crispy-pizza style. If you’re short on time & energy, pick up a couple of pre-made doughs from your local pizza joint or grocery store. I’ll surely skip the roasted garlic sauce, thought it sounds fabulous, in favor of some store bought pizza sauce. Adding fresh thyme from the herb pots will make it extra special. I received so much fresh garlic this week, after topping the pizzas with shredded mozzarella and the roasted cauliflower and mushrooms, I’ll surely give them a healthy sprinkling of some finely chopped garlic. With my beets roasted and at-the-ready (key step…miss this and you’re doomed on a weeknight!) this traditional beet salad with a honey dijon vinaigrette is a perfect accompaniment. If I have greens on hand, I’ll mix them in; if not, we enjoy the salad with no greens at all, just lots of favorite nuts and cheese.

Other pizza combinations:

winter squash and wild mushroom
leek, crimini mushroom, and prosciutto
portabella mushroom & roasted red pepper
shitake mushroom
leek, sundried tomato, and goat cheese
caramelized leek, mushroom and Italian sausage pizza
pizza with kale raab, leeks, and olives 
pizza with fennel sausage, braising greens and rosemary
dandelion greens, Italian sausage, and fontina cheese pizza
grilled pizza with kale, mushroom, & sausage
pizza bianca with goat cheese & chard
fresh ricotta and red onion pizza
sweet onion pizza
pizza with grilled fennel and parmesan
eggplant & tomato pizza
pizza bianca with goat cheese & chard 
classic margherita pizza
caramelized fennel, onion, and sweet pepper pizza 
potato & rosemary pizza
kale, sundried tomato, & feta pizza
ricotta and gremolata pizza
parsley pesto & potato pizza 
roasted red potato pizza with taleggio, roasted leeks & pancetta
roasted squash & gorgonzola pizza 

Saturday – steak & collards + “pasta”

sautéed collard greens with red pepper (Food Network)
spaghetti squash with garlic & parmesan (Steamy Kitchen)
pan seared new york steak (Cooking Light)

Can’t go wrong with steak and pasta for dinner! If you’ve never tried spaghetti squash, give it a whirl. It’s the easiest thing in the world to cook – just toss it halved (or even whole) into an oven to bake, then be amazed as you remove the squash “noodles” from the peel. I love the idea of cooking it like pasta, tossing it with butter, garlic, sea salt and parmesan. I got a surprise late autumn delivery of red peppers this week. They’ll be wonderful in this sautéed collard green dish. Pan fry a New York steak (on special at New Seasons this week) and you’ve got yourself quite a Saturday supper!

Sun – magical curry

beet and beef curry (Salon)
basmati rice/naan

This Pakistani dish, chukandar gosht (beets and meat curry), does indeed sound magical. It’s meant for slow-simmering on the stove top, to bring out the magic, I presume. Deep, south Asian aromas and flavors, rich, sweet beet earthiness…these things can only be enhanced by some Sunday meat (I’ll choose beef) and my big red pot. I’ve never heard of amchoor (dried mango powder) – if I don’t see it at first glance at the market, I’ll skip it. The fresh cilantro and lemon zest as garnishes sound like flavor-a-plenty. You can choose to serve this in a big wide soup bowl, over a scoop of rice. Or on its own, with naan for dipping. Being that it’s Sunday, I think rice and naan are in perfect order.

Monday – pad thai, squash style

spaghetti squash pad thai (Shared Appetite)

Well, with a spaghetti squash that size, I’ll surely be using the other half of my giant gem tonight! And what a unique way to use it, in something not-at-all-Thanksgiving-ey. The final result looks just like a restaurant pad thai dish. Here, we merely replace the cellophane noodles with very similar-textured spaghetti squash noodles. Chock-full of veggies, use what you have and love. I’ll use carrots, onions, and substitute bean sprouts with thinly julienned cucumbers (what a surprise to receive in late November!). Use the called-for tofu, or chicken or shrimp instead.

Tuesday – pies on the mind

honey glazed carrots (Food Network)
salmon cakes

With baking pies on my mind by this point in the week, simple and quick is the name of the dinner game. I always love a straight-forward carrot side dish –  they make such a statement, in their whole state, with just a bit of their green top left intact. I’m likely to toss the carrots with just a bit of olive oil and roast them in a hot oven until they’re lightly browned and tender (roasting, in my opinion, is just the way to go with carrots to avoid that mushy cooked-carrot flash-back). Just drizzle this melted honey, butter sauce over the top for their last few minutes in the oven. Again, New Seasons saves the day (and the main dish) by offering these delightful salmon cakes in their fish department. Pick up a couple per person, and lightly sauté in olive oil until the center is done and the outside is golden with just a little crunch.

Wednesday –  pre-feast soup night 

roasted butternut squash and pear soup (The Daily Green)
escarole, orzo, & meatball soup (Deb Perleman, The Smitten Kitchen)
crusty bread

Nights like these, where there might already be all sorts of turkey day food preparations already under way (aka kitchen chaos), are perfect times to pull out the (pre-made) soups. I’ll put it on my weekend “to-do” list, whipping up a batch or two ahead of time. This amazing winter squash and pear soup is hearty, and oh-so flavorful with the mixture of carrots, squash, leeks (use onions, shallots, whatever you’ve got), and pears (plus wine and fresh ginger!). It’s a simple cook it, purree it, cream it process, delivering a rich, velvety, decadent concoction. This is where an immersion blender really is indispensable! No back and forth, pot to blender, etc. I’ll skip the garnish of crystalized ginger (don’t have) and pomegranates (too Christmassy). Maybe finely chopped hazelnuts instead?

The chunkier, more substantial soup I’ve chosen is a traditional Italian wedding soup. Apparently, having less to do with joining a couple, than with melding meat, veggies, & pasta in a big ‘ol pot. Deb swears this is weeknight simple, but I’m not taking any chances. Mixing the meatball mixture, rolling it into cute little balls, and letting it chill – not at all difficult, but I’ll want to allow for some good meatball energy. Then it’s just a simmering of carrots, orzo, escarole, and uncooked meatballs together, until the perfect union occurs. Escarole is the authentic addition to this soup, but you could use downright any green.

Come Wednesday, I’ll pull out the pre-made soups, get them simmering on low, add a baguette and some wine, and I’m ready for any relative or friend that might arrive. In a really relaxed, avoid-the-kitchen-mess-today, way!

Thursday –  the feast, veggie style

hors d’ oeuvres
beet spread with goat cheese & hazelnuts (Yotam Ottolenghi)

The perfect appetizer – one big platter, lots of oiled, salted, and lightly toasted baguette slices, and a mound of nice goat (or any farm fresh) cheese. Aside these, an amazing farm fresh spread using my gorgeous, vibrant red creamy beets. I’ll roast the beets ahead of time; beyond this, there’s not much work, aside from tossing the softened beets in the food processor with some greek yogurt, maple syrup and a couple spices. This tasty treat can be made ahead, then sit in waiting for the turkey day hors d’ oeuvre hour.

salad
northwest autumn kale salad (Simply Classic, Seattle Junior League)

This salad, dated and passé as it may sound (being from a nearly ancient junior league cookbook) has graced every one of my Thanksgiving tables, for over twenty years. Oh, I try all sorts of fancier ones, but I just keep coming back to this tried-and-true. Maybe it’s the title – anyone falls hard for “northwest autumn” at the holidays; maybe it’s the crunchy apples, that speak loudly and clearly to us Oregonians; maybe it’s the blue cheese, which I can’t help but read as Rogue Creamery Oregonzola; maybe it’s the sweet & salty glazed nuts – it’s a fun little exploration finding out who’s making them faster and tastier than I ever could – this year it’s Albina City’s sweet Oregon hazelnuts; maybe it’s the dressing – decidedly simple, but with those subtle extras like shallots, apple cider vinegar, & maple syrup. As you can see, it’s easy to breathe new life into a done (and overdone) salad. This year I’ll try a thinly sliced kale version, forgoing the other lettuces called for. With sweet nuts and maple syrup, tart & tangy northwest apples, and a sprinkling of Oregon cheese and dried cranberries, it’s nearly impossible to go wrong here.

veggie sides
brown sugar glazed squash with marshmallows (Bon Appetit)
sausage & mushroom stuffing (Diane Morgan)
rustic garlic & shallot mashed potatoes (Bon Appetit)
spiced cranberry sauce (The Splendid Table)

This brown-sugary-marshmallowy concoction is a once a year indulgence that my kids refuse to live without. I’ll be using a butternut squash I have on hand, but you can truly use any winter squash or sweet potato. This dish is certainly a throw-back from the days of jello-molds and green bean casseroles. I say some things, like marshmallows, never go out of style! Plus, it has a certain sophistication (well, maybe that’s taking it too far), with the addition of the spices and sliced almonds. One of my favorite things about it is its ease – instead of making a creamy, buttery, involved “mash”, it’s purely pieces of sweet potatoes or winter squash that make up the casserole base. The authenticity of the veggie shines, even through the caramelly glaze and lightly browned marshmallows.

Looking for a stuffing dish that uses farm-fresh veggies, and will bring sheer joy to the sausage-lovers amongst us? Look no further – I’ve got a crowd-pleaser here. This Diane Morgan recipe uses my crimini mushrooms, carrots, celery, parsley, and onions. Leeks or shallots could easily be substituted for the onions. And any Italian sausage will fit the bill, or pack it with veggies and leave it without. I’ll use a favorite bakery’s pre-made dried bread cubes.

As for the essential mashed potatoes, if you’re not picky about them being perfectly creamy, or perfectly peeled, this is a keeper. I actually prefer a mashed potato dish that has some texture; this one gets that from both the softened onion (I’ll use shallots) and garlic, as well as the coarsely “smashed” nature of the unpeeled spuds. Quick, rustic, and delicious!

The cranberry sauce doesn’t exactly fall in the “veggie” category, but it will be straight from the farmer’s market! Fresh cranberries are combined with honey, orange zest, cardamon pods and other delectable spices, to make one fantastic sauce to accompany that turkey. I’ll do as the recipe suggests, making it a few days ahead of time, enjoying it spread on cranberry walnut bread, dolloped on oatmeal, and even on Wednesday’s squash soup! The addition on post-turkey-day-sandwiches is truly amazing.

Yes, there’ll be a turkey too, along with traditional rolls, gravy, and the like. Thank goodness I’ve got a brother-in-law willing experiment with grilling the bird – I’ll gladly let him have at it, as I focus on my favorites! I’ve got rolls coming from the fabulous Bakery Nouveau in Seattle, and New Seasons does a bang-up job of making gravy. Why muck with what others do so well?

dessert
pumpkin pie (Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food)
perfect pecan pie (Cook’s Illustrated
simplest apple tart (Alice Waters)

One of the great things about a CSA is the plethora of little pie pumpkins delivered throughout the fall. After roasting and using what I can, there always seems to be a bit of extra mashed pumpkin, which I freeze in quart sized bags, for just this occasion. This Alice Waters pumpkin pie recipe is classic, delicious and, as her recipes always are, simple. For the sweet tooth out there, satisfied only by the nutty, chewy, and caramelly,…this perfect pecan pie. It’s a simple pie to make, with minimal ingredients, and absolutely not a hint of veggies. The grand finale, in an understated, classic way, will be this apple tart. I can’t wait to put to wonderful use the apples I received from Hood River Organic. Serve all of the pies with a dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream – you’ve never seen a happier crowd!

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