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Monday, September 27, 2010

Three Sisters Talking Story

I came up with this casserole quite a while ago. It started as a reconstruction of a recipe Christie had made once for us, but has progressed to a new and even tastier dish.

I named it "Three Sisters Talking Story" for a couple of reasons. The use of "Three Sisters" pays homage to the ingredients that were once the staple of the Native American diet. Many groups doing outreach to Native communities are working to bring attention to the health benefits of the traditional diet. The Three Sisters refer to the corn, beans and squash that are the stars of this hearty casserole. "Talking Story" is a term we heard in Hawaii, it refers to a close conversation where each participant shares deeply from the heart. In this dish the 3 ingredients all share the credit in this dish, each shining through.

The Stuff
  • 3-4lb winter squash (pick something with more flavor than an acorn squash for this: butternut, delicata, carnival, dumpling, hubbard, etc.)
  • 2 cups cooked pinto beans (1 15oz can is fine, just drain and rinse well)
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced (a 15oz can will work, Muir Glen's fire roasted would be perfect)
  • 1/2 cup diced Anaheim chilies (or a 4oz can, I like Hatch)
  • 1 small yellow or sweet onion, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 4 1/4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup + 2 T fine nutritional yeast powder
  • 1 t sweet, smoked paprika
  • 1 t cumin seeds
  • 1/2 t ground cumin
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

All of the steps for making this are split into separate steps that can be done concurrently. Each of the different steps will be combined at the end in layers.

Making: Roasted Squash
Pre-heat oven to 350. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Lightly spray the bottom of a roasting pan with oil. Place squash in roasting pan, cut side down. Roast in oven until soft. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Roasting time will vary greatly depending upon the size of the squash you used. Delicata are very small and can be done within 15-20 minutes. A Hubbard is so large and dense that it should be cut into quarters, at least, and will take closer to 30-40 minutes to roast through.

Leave oven on, it will be used to bake full casserole.
Making: Cumin Polenta
Spray a little oil into the bottom the pressure cooker on medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds to heated pot and saute until the seeds are fragrant, darken and begin to pop & sizzle. Less than 5 minutes

Add the water carefully and bring to boil. Add polenta and 1/2 t of smoked paprika while stirring. Put lid onto pressure cooker, bring to high pressure, reduce heat, and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Remove pressure cooker and let sit for 10 minutes. Release any pressure if cooker has not unlocked and open. Stir in 1/3 cup of fine nutritional yeast and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

**If you are not using a pressure cooker you can cook this on the stove top. Just bring the polenta back to a boil, stirring often, once it is fully boiling again reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring fairly often.
Making: Stewed Pintos & Tomatoes
Spray a little oil into a sauce pan on medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until just translucent (about 5 minutes), add garlic. Continue to saute until the onions and garlic begin to caramelize (about 5 minutes more). Add fresh chilies and saute until they soften (about 3 minutes). If you are using canned chilies they can be added along with the tomatoes (fresh or canned), cooked pinto beans. Stir in 2 T nutritional yeast, 1/2 t smoked paprika, 1/2 t of ground cumin. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the fresh tomatoes have softened, or at least 20 minutes.
Making: The Casserole "Three Sisters Talking Story"
In a dutch oven or a 9x12 baking dish spray a little oil. Scoop roasted squash out of skin and put into the bottom of the baking dish. Press down with spoon or spatula to get a even, 1-2" layer of squash. Pour stewed beans & tomatoes over the layer of squash and smooth out evenly. Top with the polenta, making as even a layer as possible.

Put casserole into the hot oven (350). Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and lightly spray the top of the polenta with oil. Return to oven and reset to low broil. Broil on low for 5 minutes or until the polenta is lightly browned and golden.

Remove from oven and let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with avocado slices if you want.

Makes 8 very hearty servings

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eggplant & Chickpea Casserole

We do not share a love of eggplant in our home. Christie prefers to avoid it and I really like it. In getting boxes of fresh produce I find that I often have more eggplant than I am sure of what to do with and have already thrown out one lovely one this summer. In our garden we found a Turkish variety that yields small, orange eggplant with a tomato shape.

I had seen a recipe on the NYTimes that referenced a staple of Middle Eastern cooking. Tonight I made a variation with the ingredients I had on hand and the result was very tasty. I'll have to recreate at another time for exact measurements, but here's a review.

2 cups cooked chickpeas were added dry to a pre-heated cast-iron skillet on medium heat. I very lightly spritzed them with Canola spray (Spectrum) as they browned. Once they were beginning to look toasty I added a small onion, thinly sliced. Sauteed 5 minutes or so, until the onion began to go translucent and then I added a generous amount of dried oregano, some dried marjoram, lemon pepper, granulated garlic, and a pinch of nutritional yeast. Tossed all of that around to coat the chickpeas & onions before adding 1/4 cup of chopped, fresh Italian parsley, the juice of half a lemon, and one diced medium green tomato.

While all of that chickpea stuff was going on I had sliced in half 4 small, Japanese eggplant. I pre-heated our cast-iron grill pan and then added the eggplant, sliced side down. I put the lid of my small casserole dish on top of them to press them into the grill. After grilling for a few minutes face-down I flipped them all over, skin-side down, replaced the lid to press them flat and grilled for a few more moments.

The oven had been pre-heating to 375. After the eggplant was done grilling and the chickpeas sauteed, I gathered my casserole dish and 2 cups of crushed tomatoes. 4 eggplant slices went into the baking dish, topped with half the chickpea mixture and followed by half the tomatoes. Repeat, cover with lid, pop into oven for 15 minutes.

Tasty all by itself. If there were guests or I was less hungry I'd have garnished with fresh parsley and a slice of lemon. This would also be great paired with some whole grains or stuffed into a baguette. I enjoyed it with a big salad.

Organics to You - September 20, 2010

Between cutting back on boxes for a few weeks and the joyful craziness that was Wedding Camp there haven't been any updates from me for a while about our produce delivery. I'm doing some real guessing on the composted stuff since a couple of times I just cleaned out the fridge without noting closely what I was pitching into the bin.

That said, here's today's box full of goodies:
  • a head of Romaine lettuce
  • red grapes
  • broccoli
  • a leek
  • 7 small summer squash, 3 kinds
  • 3 chilies (1 sweet red, a poblano, and an anaheim)
  • bunch of beets, with greens
  • several small tomatoes
  • 3 green pears
  • 3 peaches
  • 5 pluots
  • 3 apples
  • 2 ears of corn
In the fridge:
  • carrots
  • fava beans
  • cucumbers (including the first from our garden!!)
  • some garlic
  • a huge pile of apples (we went to the farmers market this weekend and the Pink Pearls are in!)
  • a few onions
  • 1 red beet
  • a bunch of radishes
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 limes
  • 1 enormous mango
  • 1 orange
  • several bananas
  • green grapes
  • a few strawberries
  • several tomatoes, including many from our garden
  • several types of eggplant, including the orange Turkish ones from the garden
  • ginger
  • dill
  • Italian parsley
  • some lettuce
  • a little chard
  • a few bell peppers, many out of our garden
  • there's quite a bit of kale out in the garden too
  • red grapes
  • celery
The Compost Pail of Shame (what we didn't use and had to compost):
  • a whole lot of lettuce
  • an eggplant
  • several pieces of assorted fruit
  • some cucumbers
  • a little cauliflower
  • some broccoli crowns
Expect to see some more recipes coming soon. I will post about fabulous mac & cheeze (using a creamy cashew & nutritional yeast sauce), our amazing shepherds pie, I am working on Christie to post her amazing mashed potatoes (also using a tasty cashew cream sauce and integral to the shepherds pie), and the crazy good Sloppy Schmoe's (my new made-up name for our take on sloppy joe's) we came up with this week after volunteering at Veg Fest.

We've also been experimenting with homemade almond milk, fantastic & healthy truffles from our friend Wendy's new cookbook, Scatter Vegan Sweets. Aside from the rich dishes I've mentioned above, we've been turning again to healthier, very low fat dishes along the lines of those in Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book, Eat to Live. This change has meant great new looks at salad dressings, stir-fry sauce, and very hearty minestrone soup.