candacecooks

Eat well. You owe it to yourself.

Category: Side Dishes

French Onion Pastry Puffs

I love when cooking transforms simple ingredients into something more than the sum of its parts. Heat is magic to me. By itself, it turns granulated sugar into caramel, butter into brown butter, (if you haven’t tried it, you don’t know what you’re missing out on), bread into toast. Don’t laugh, toast is a main staple in my diet.

IMG_3051For vegetables, I’ve found this equation looks something like heat + vegetable + fat (oil or butter) + acid (vinegar, lemon juice, wine) + salt. Magic broccoli is a perfect example of this, and in this pastry, caramelized onions. Caramelizing onions brings out their inherent sweetness with none of the bite and harshness of raw onions. Paired with flaky, buttery pastry and cheese, they are perfection. I prefer savory pastries, and these hit the right balance indulgent without being rich. Also, they look like ravioli before they’ve been cooked.

IMG_3058They are dead simple to make but seem like the sort of thing one might serve as hors d’oeuvres on your yacht, or something equally fancy. I’m just making a guess here, I’m Midwestern and middle class. I’ve never even seen a yacht in real life, but invite me to yours? I’ll bring these, I promise.

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French Onion Pastry Puffs 

Adapted from Joy The Baker

Note: When buying puff pastry, look for one that has no sugar, just salt. They can usually be found by prepared pie crusts; I use Trader Joe’s. You can also make your own if you wish or can’t find them at your grocery store, but it quite a bit more work. I would use this recipe for it if I was making the pastry, omitting the sugar.

1 yellow onion, sliced into long half moons

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

Pinch of granulated sugar

3 tablespoons wine (cooking or white) or broth

1 package puff pastry (Two 9×9 sheets), thawed but cold

1 egg, beaten

1/3 cup shredded cheese – Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Gouda, or Swiss

In a large saucepan, melt butter and oil over medium heat. We use both because the flavor of butter is superior, but it has a lower heat point, so it needs the oil to stabilize it. Add onions and stir to coat with butter/oil. Add salt and pinch of sugar and stir. Let cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Stir again, then turn down the heat a bit and cover with a lid. Continue stirring at 5 minute intervals for another 20 minutes, or until the onions are brown and very soft. This means they are caramelized and have reached a whole new flavor level. Take the lid off, and add wine or broth. Let the liquid cook down for about 5 more minutes. Take onions off heat.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. While the onions are cooking, prepare your puff pastry area. Roll out the pastry and cut each sheet into squares of your desired size with an un-serrated knife. I cut each sheet into 16 squares, which meant squares that were approximately 2 1/4 inch on each side. They don’t need to be super exact. You can also cut rounds if you wish, but that does mean wasting some pastry. Brush all squares with egg; this acts as glue to help the pastry stick together. Put a heaping 1/2 tsp caramelized onions and 1/2 tsp cheese on half of the squares. Use a fork to crimp the sides down – it will look quite similar to ravioli – and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 12-18 minutes, or until golden brown and puffy. They are delicious both warm and cold.

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Edamame, Corn, and White Bean Salad

Candace Cooks: Edamame, Corn, and White Bean Salad

Last Friday, a friend of mine made some really awesome vegetarian nachos. They had cheese and corn and edamame and cumin and garlic and man, they were good. Since then, I hadn’t been able to get idea of an edamame and corn salad out of my head. But it couldn’t just be those two things; I also wanted it to have bit of heft, a source of protein. I wanted it to have crunch and color, a slight acidity and a subtle heat. I wanted it to ooze of summer and outdoor barbeques and fresh food, something that feels so far away here in Springfield, MO, where we are experiencing an odd thunder/sleet/ice storm.

Candace Cooks: Edamame, Corn, and White Bean Salad

So, late last night, with the cold settling in, I made this and stuck it in the fridge until morning. I had tried a few bites the night before, for research purposes – I am committed to the scientific process and stuff, guys – but it wasn’t until lunch that I sat down with a bowl of it. It was, in a word, awesome. In many other words, it was the type of food that transports you from your current cold, icy existence to sunshiny picnics where you eat drippy watermelon and swat away mosquitoes.

Candace Cooks: Edamame, Corn, and White Bean Salad

Something cool about this salad is that it’s vegan and gluten-free, perfect to bring to those aforementioned barbeques that can be a minefield for those with special dietary needs. If you’re one of those people, put this recipe in your regular rotation. If you’re not, make this and share with a friend who is. They’ll love you forever. (At least I would.)

Candace Cooks: Edamame, Corn, and White Bean Salad

Edamame, Corn, and White Bean Salad

Serves 8, generously

1 cup black rice (wild rice), dry

1 lb. edamame, shelled

12 oz. frozen or fresh corn

1 15 oz can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed

½ large or one small red onion, finely chopped

¼ – 1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced

3 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 2-3 limes

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Cook your rice according to the directions on the package.

Boil or steam your edamame and corn. The edamame I bought was frozen and steam in the package, which made things easy. If you have fresh edamame, use these instructions. For the corn, if it’s fresh, I’d boil it. I, again, bought it frozen (Thanks, winter produce!) so I just used the microwave instructions on the package.

When the rice, edamame, and corn are all cooked, combine them in a large bowl with the beans, jalapeño, and onion. Toss with olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, and salt. Add more jalapeño, lime, cilantro, or salt to taste.

Eat right away, or store in the fridge until chilled, no need to reheat.

Variations: Add feta cheese or avocado, experiment with different kinds of beans and peppers.

Honey-Roasted Heirloom Carrots

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This Monday, as part of my adventures in ethical eating, I went shopping at Homegrown Food, a local and organic food store here in Springfield, MO. I was enamored by the produce section, full of organic, unique fruit and vegetables. I’m big on color, so I was immediately drawn to the heirloom, or rainbow, carrots. Can you blame me? Look at how pretty they are!

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(The purple ones reminded me so much of Gobstopper candy! Do you see it?)

I wasn’t initially sure what to do with them – I’d never had heirloom carrots before, and pretty much the only way I eat carrots is raw, maybe dipped in hummus. My first instinct with vegetables is to roast them, and a quick Google search proved that most people did that too.

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This is barely a recipe; it’s so simple that I feel ridiculous posting it. But I liked it so much that I had to share it. My main beef with cooked carrots is that they usually turn out mushy and flavorless, but not these. The carrots, sliced in half length-wise, get crispy and caramelized in the oven, and the flavor is something entirely different from raw carrots. A balsamic vinegar reduction add an acidic, savory counterpart to the sweetness of the carrots and together it is brilliant.

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It was a little bit reminiscent of fries to me, and I think it would be great alongside a burger, sandwich, or anything you would serve fries with. I ate it with pasta, and that was good too. I think you probably can’t go wrong.

Honey Roasted Heirloom Carrots with Balsamic Reduction

Note: You can use standard carrots if you wish, but buy whole ones with the tops still attached for optimal flavor.

1 bunch heirloom, also known as rainbow, carrots (I had twelve of varying sizes in my bunch)

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Drizzle of honey

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400˚.

Wash and peel the carrots, and slice in half length-wise. Toss on a baking pan with olive oil and salt, then drizzle a bit of honey over it and stir until lightly coated. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes.

While the carrots are roasting, put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and cook on high until boiling, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until reduced in half, or is your desired thickness. I wanted a syrupy texture, so I cooked it for 18 minutes past the boiling point.

To serve, drizzle the balsamic reduction over your carrots and eat up!

Magic Broccoli

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This summer, some friends and I made dinner, and while shopping, I picked up a massive amount of broccoli. Everyone looked at me dubiously, convinced I was crazy and that the dozen or so of us could not consume that much broccoli. Three of my friends in that group didn’t even like broccoli. In the words of one, (hi Sammy!) “Broccoli tastes like death!”

But that night, not only was every last floret eaten, but those three became broccoli converts. Sammy declared it tasted the least like death of any broccoli she’d ever eaten, and even went back for seconds.

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This, friends, is the power of magic broccoli. It’s had other incarnations – I was first introduced via Amateur Gourmet who in turn got the idea from the venerable Ina Garten. I’ve also found, on Pinterest, it referred to as crack broccoli. These recipes have all sorts of extras – Parmesan cheese, sugar, basil, pine nuts, but none of them are necessary. In fact, I think they get in the way. A scant amount of olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic, a hot oven, a lemon squeezed over – that’s all you need for broccoli nirvana.

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And, GUYS, nirvana it is. This broccoli is so very good that I forget I’m eating something healthy.

It’s simple enough to make on a weekday to accompany dinner, yet delicious enough to be a welcome, healthy side to a potluck or holiday dinner. I’ve provided a recipe here, but take the measurements more as suggestions. This is YOUR magic broccoli, do what feels right to you.

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Magic Broccoli

Adapted from the Amateur Gourmet et al.

Note: Do yourself a favor and, for the love of all that is good and holy, buy a real lemon. They’re only whereabouts of 33 cents each. If you have some bottled lemon juice in your fridge, throw it away and never ever look back. In the words of Ina Garten, “There is no substitute for fresh squeezed lemon juice.” That is especially true in this recipe.

Serves 2-4, although it can be easily multiplied.

1 lb. broccoli, washed and dried well

1 tbsp. olive oil

3/4 tsp. salt, plus more to taste

½ tsp. pepper

2 garlic cloves (I have been known to use minced garlic from a jar, or garlic salt if in a pinch. It’s good no matter what.)

1 lemon, cut into quarters

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Chop the majority of the stems off your broccoli, leaving mostly florets. Spread them across a cookie sheet; they don’t need to be spaced out, but don’t pile them on top of each other.  Drizzle the olive oil across the broccoli, and stir with a spoon to evenly distribute everything, or use your hands if you’re feeling wild. There are no rules here. Slice the garlic cloves into maybe five or six pieces, and toss with the broccoli along with the salt and pepper, making sure it is well coated.

Put it in the oven for 18-20 minutes, stirring once around the ten-minute mark. It’s done when the ends of the florets look brown and crispy. Pull it out, and squeeze your lemon over it and add salt to taste. I usually end up using about half the lemon, but adjust to your taste. You’ll probably have to fish a few lemon seeds out, one of the occupational hazards of being a real lemon lover. While you’re at it, fish out the garlic cloves too, because no one wants to accidentally bite down on a large chunk of garlic. Then enjoy your bit of vegetable heaven, at peace because you’re eating something both scrumptious and good for you.

This is my first post – feel free to leave a comment and introduce yourself! What’s your favorite way to eat broccoli? What other vegetables do you like to roast?