Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries

Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries recipe.

When you want something different from the traditional bread stuffing on Thanksgiving, wild rice stuffing is a great alternative. Wild rice has an earthy appeal that is so well suited for fall and winter meals. It is generously filled with complementary fall flavors with grains, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and toasted nuts. To liven up these woodsy fall notes I added dried cranberries for a sweet and tangy zing and lots of fresh herbs. It is everything you expect in a stuffing recipe minus the bread.

I love wild rice and have always wanted to make wild rice stuffing, yet it has taken me all these years to finally do so. Tradition has a strong hold on what I make for our holiday meal. If it were only up to me, I would experiment and try new recipes every year. Yet, tradition overrules. Everyone has their favorite food that must be on the menu because Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without it.  For my sons, that special holiday dish is pineapple stuffing, for me, it is all of the side dishes, but I particularly like my favorite stuffing recipe and pumpkin pie.

Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries recipe.

Wild Rice Stuffing

In the past, I sampled wild rice stuffing made with all wild rice and aromatics. As much as I like wild rice, I prefer it in a blend with long grain white or brown rice. The rice blend flavor is less overpowering and doesn’t compete with the other foods. Within this recipe layers of flavor builds from slowly caramelizing the onions then sautéing the mushrooms in the same pan. These flavors take time to develop, so be patient and cook the onions slowly until they turn golden and sweet. I promise it is worth it.

Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries recipe.

Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries recipe.

I adapted this recipe from an old Thanksgiving Menu article in Bon Appetite Magazine, Wild Rice Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms. My cookbook collection is filled with binders of old food magazine articles I read since the early 1990’s.  At the time, any recipe for Thanksgiving and Christmas were hard to part with as I was dreaming of the day when it will be my turn to host a family holiday meal. I own binders full of recipes from old food magazines that still hold my interest 20 years later.

You have two choices for finishing the stuffing. One, stuff the turkey with the wild rice stuffing. Or, bake the stuffing in a baking dish. Both options have their advantages. If you stuff the turkey with wild rice stuffing, the stuffing absorbs the flavors of your turkey and gets very moist. The opposite happens, if you bake the stuffing. The stuffing stays moist, but the top gets crispy. The crunchy bits are Joe’s favorite part of the stuffing.

If you choose to stuff the turkey with wild rice stuffing, you must cook the stuffing until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) because it is cooked inside a raw turkey. Often, the turkey finishes cooking before the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. If that is the case, remove the stuffing and finish it in a baking dish covered with foil in a 350°F (176°C) oven, until it reaches the proper temperature.

Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries recipe.

Stuffing or Pilaf?

You can prepare this recipe with two options. First, prepare the wild rice stuffing as directed using the two-stage cooking process. However, if you want to make this for a regular dinner, as a side with a roast pork or chicken, serve the rice after it finishes cooking on the stove. The rice is plenty done plus it saves you 40 minutes if you skip the baking. For extra flavor toast the wild rice and white rice in butter and make this recipe as a pilaf.

Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries recipe.

Dietary Challenges Creating a Holiday Menu

When I make a holiday meal for my family, there are many types of diets I must take into consideration. Generally speaking, my meal needs to satisfy an omnivore diet, plus vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets. Sometimes dairy-free, low salt restrictions, and nut free restrictions need consideration. Satisfying everyone in the family requires some thoughtful planning.

Fortunately, wild rice stuffing is one of those side dishes that easily fits into all my dietary considerations. It is in the one size fits all category. First, it is gluten-free, so you can check consideration off your list. Second, cook the rice in vegetable stock and bake it in the oven for a plant-based meal. You get bonus points with your vegetarian and vegan friends because combining wild rice, white rice, and nuts create a meal with complementary proteins. Low or no salt store-bought stocks are good options, but homemade stock is even better for keeping salt intake down.

Fortunately, when I host a holiday meal, I do not have to make it all by myself. People enjoy contributing to a portion of the dinner. It makes them feel connected to the event and not burden the host with all the work and expense. Recruit as much help as you need and don’t be shy about it.

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Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries recipe.

Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries

Wild rice stuffing is a great alternative to bread stuffing. It has all the flavors you love in stuffing from the caramelized onions, sautéed wild mushrooms, and toasted walnuts with an added boost from dried cranberries and fresh herbs. This is a great gluten-free stuffing alternative that all will enjoy. 

This recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetite Magazine,  Wild Rice Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms, I believe dating back to 2000. 

You can prepare the wild rice stuffing a day or two in advance kept covered in the refrigerator then bake in the oven when needed. This recipe is easily scaled up or down as needed.  

Course Grain, Side Dish, Vegan, Vegetarian
Cuisine American
Keyword wild rice stuffing
Prep Time 58 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 33 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 4-5 onions around 2- 2 ½ lbs (1 kg
  • 1 cup (3 oz / 87 g) walnuts
  • 8 TB (113 g) butter, divided one stick
  • 1 ¼ lb (575 g) assorted wild mushrooms like crimini and shiitake stemmed and sliced
  • 3 TB chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt divided
  • 2 TB (30 ml) Brandy or Dry Sherry optional
  • 5 cups (750 ml) vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3 tsp fresh sage minced
  • 1 1/3 cup (226 g / 8 oz) wild rice
  • 1 ¼ cup (245 g / 8.5 oz) long grain white rice
  • 1 cup (123 g) dried cranberries
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary minced
  • 6 -8 large sprigs of Italian Parsley

Instructions

Preparation

  1. Peel and slice the onions in half lengthwise then thinly slice each half in half-moons. Set aside.
  2. Heat a heavy-duty skillet over high heat, to just before smoking hot. Toast the walnuts in the hot skillet. Keep the walnuts moving and jumping around the skillet so they do not brown and burn. The walnuts are toasted when you get a nutty aroma and the skillet seems shinier from the oils released from the walnuts, about 2-3 minutes. Immediately turn off the heat and tip the walnuts onto a plate to cool. Set aside.
  3. Melt 4 TB (56 g) butter in a large pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter stops sizzling, add the onions slices and turn down the heat to medium-low. Stir to coat the onions with butter and cook the onions until caramelized about 30 minutes or longer. It is important to caramelize the onions slowly otherwise they will burn. Stir the onions every now and then to make sure the onions do not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. The browner you let the onions get the more flavor they bring to the wild rice stuffing. Add in a pinch of Kosher salt. 

  4. Once the onions are caramelized, scrape them into a bowl and set aside. Place the pot or sauté pan back on the stove with the heat up to medium-high.
  5. Melt the remaining 4 TB (56 g) butter then add the mushrooms, pinch of the Kosher salt, and 1 tsp minced thyme. Stir to coat the mushrooms with butter, then sauté until the mushrooms release their liquid and cooked all the way through. There are too many mushrooms in on pot for them to brown, but if you get some browning on the mushroom all the better as it adds flavor. Add the brandy or sherry (optional), and cook until the liquid is almost evaporated. Add the mushrooms to the bowl with the onions.

  6. Meanwhile, while the onions and mushrooms are cooking, heat up the stock with 2 tsp minced sage and 1 TB thyme and remaining Kosher salt in a large Dutch Oven with at least a 5 qt capacity to a boil. Add the wild rice and bring back to a boil, then cover the pot and turn down the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes. 

  7. Mix in the white rice and cover. Simmer until the white rice is just getting tender and most of the liquid is absorbed about 15 minutes.

  8. Stir in the caramelized onions, mushrooms, cranberries, walnuts with the remaining tablespoon of thyme, 1 tsp minced sage, and 1 tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.  

  9. Finish by stuffing the turkey with the wild rice stuffing or bake the stuffing in a 9 x 13 x 2-inch (23 x 33 x 5 cm) baking dish. 

To bake stuffing in the turkey:

  1. Chop 4 of the parsley sprigs and add to the wild rice stuffing. Stir to combine. Loosely fill the neck and main cavities of the turkey with the stuffing. Loosely sew the skin flap over the neck area to secure the rice in place. Truss the legs of the turkey together. Add the remaining stuffing to a buttered baking dish large enough to hold the leftovers. Cover with buttered foil and bake in the oven with the turkey, until heated through about 25 minutes. Uncover stuffing then bake until the top of the stuffing is slightly crisp. 

    Bake the stuffing in the turkey until the turkey is done,  and remove the stuffing while the turkey rests. Immediately check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing is done when it reaches 165°F (74°C). If the internal temperature is lower than 165°F (74°C) remove the stuffing from the cavities and place in a baking dish and cover with foil. Continue to bake the stuffing until the temperature reaches 165°F (74°C)

  2. Remove the stuffing from the cavities and spoon into a serving bowl. Mince the remaining parsley and sprinkle over the top. Keep warm until time to serve. Serve hot. 

To bake stuffing in a baking dish:

  1. Butter a 9 – 13- 2-inch baking dish. Add half of the minced parsley to the rice stuffing and stir to combine. Tip the rice stuffing into the baking dish then cover with a buttered piece of foil, butter side down. Bake in a 350°F (176°C) for 30 minutes or until heated through. Remove the foil and bake until it starts to crisp on top, another 20 minutes or so. You do not have to concern yourself with the internal temperature reaching 165°F (74°C) because it was not cooked inside a turkey.  Chop the remaining parsley and sprinkle over the top. Serve hot. 

Recipe Notes

I believe the wild rice stuffing is delicious and ready to serve just after cooking on the stove. If you do not want to go through the extra step of baking it, however, this extra step gives you a crispy top, feel free to do so. Wild rice with mushrooms and cranberries makes a great rice side dish. This is a hearty flavored rice meal and will work well with oven roasted or grilled meats, and fish like sea bass, tuna, salmon or swordfish. 

You can substitute the long grain white rice with long grain brown rice. Cooking times will vary and take longer with brown rice. 

Extra mushroom flavor

For extra wild mushroom flavor, add 1 tablespoon of porcini mushroom powder to the stock. You can also reconstitute some dried wild mushrooms like porcini or chanterelle mushrooms, then chop them up. Add them to the sautéed mushrooms. 

Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries recipe. Wild rice stuffings is a gluten-free alternative to traditional stuffing on Thanksgiving. It also makes a hearty side dish for all the other fall and winter nights. Pair with roasted meats or fish.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce, a recipe.

During the month of March, despite modern farming and trade making fresh produce available 365 days of the year, there is clear evidence that the remnants of winter produce are coming to an end. In the northeast, as we eagerly anticipate the arrival of spring with its’ young seasonal produce, there is a “I’m tired of winter,” expression on many faces. Unfortunately, our winter blues is made more pronounced with the slim pickings at the farmers market. Fortunately, some winter produce, like cauliflower, is easily dressed up with a vibrant sauce made with available winter greens and seasonings. Seared cauliflower with kale parsley sauce is a spring alarm clock for the winter weary.

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce, a recipe.

Throughout the winter I particularly enjoyed roasted broccoli and cauliflower. The charred flowerettes and roasted flavor comforted me on many cold winter nights. Yet, I get antsy in March and seek out clues for an awakening spring. The blustery days still have me craving comfort food like slow braises and stews, but something more vibrant and less rich is dawning. As a result, I decided to add a zesty sauce with my usual seared and roasted cauliflower to waken up the senses after a long winters nap.

Kale Parsley Sauce for Cauliflower Steaks

Kale parsley sauce is a hybrid similar to pesto and chimichurri, but not quite a true member of either one. The heft of the sauce comes from blanched lacinato kale and puréed with assertive ingredients to soften the bitterness of this hearty winter green. To counter the bitterness I added anchovies and lots of garlic. The acid from the capers and vinegar give the sauce a bright and semi-sweet flavor to counter the bitterness as well. Even though this sauce resembles a South American chimichurri sauce, it has a distinct Italian personality.

The most important thing to remember when cooking with kale, no matter what variety, is to remove the whole stem running up the middle of the leaf. The stems are very fibrous and unpleasant to eat and as a polite gesture to your dinning companions remove the stem before cooking. If you want your kids to eat kale, get rid of the stem. Kale leaves have a naturally dry and chewy texture that does not appeal to everyone. Served with the sharp and fibrous stem your children will cross their arms and turn up their nose. Harrumph. You won’t win this battle.

To remove the stem from the kale leaf, simply run a sharp paring knife along the length of both sides of the stem and slice it out. Or, fold the leaf in half like a book with the stem as the binder. While holding tight at the base of the seam (where the stem meets the leaf), yank upwards on the stem and tear it away from the leaf.

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce, a recipe.

How to Slice Cauliflower Steaks

It is easy to slice cauliflower into “steaks” at the center of the cauliflower head. Unfortunately, you may only get two to three intact steaks. First trim off any leaves at the base of the head then trim the stem even to the bottom of the cauliflower head. Then, slice right down the middle of the cauliflower from pole to pole. Beginning at the cut side, slice the cauliflower into half-inch (1.5 cm) wide steaks then repeat with the other half. Cauliflower naturally wants to break into flowerettes the farther away from the core so do not despair if they start to come apart.

If it is important for appearance and presentation that you have as many intact cauliflower steaks as you have guests, then buy a couple heads of cauliflower for some insurance. Chop up and roast the remainder flowerettes and add it to toasted farro with mushrooms, or in risotto, or roast in a 400°F (200°C /Gas Mark 6) oven with olive oil and Romano cheese for a side dish for another meal.

 What to pair with Seared Cauliflower with Kale Parsley Sauce

Seared and roasted cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that is perfect as a vegetarian meal or a side dish with grilled or roasted meats. The prominent bite of the kale parsley sauce comes from the vinegar (like chimichurri sauce) and requires a hearty food like grains, pasta or steaks to pair alongside. This recipe will make more kale parsley sauce than you need, so use the remainder as a sauce for pasta with cauliflower, peas, chickpeas and grape tomatoes for an easy weeknight dinner.

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce, a recipe.

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Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce, a recipe.

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce

Cauliflower naturally wants to break into flowerettes, but in the center through the stem you can slice the cauliflower sections with the stem and flowerettes intact. You will get anywhere from 2-4 intact steaks depending on the size of the cauliflower. Don’t despair if they break apart, it will still taste delicious. Buy a couple of cauliflower heads for backup if the cauliflower steaks break apart or if you want your guest to have similar looking pieces. 

The kale parsley sauce is a vibrant hybrid of a chimichurri sauce and a pesto. The acid brightens the sauce while the anchovies, capers garlic and hot pepper flakes give it depth. It is a delicious sauce to add some pizzazz to roasted vegetables and meats. 

If you have some leftover cauliflower it is delicious stirred into penne or fusilli pasta with some chickpeas and sliced cherry tomatoes, coated with the kale parsley sauce.

See notes for a vegan alternative. 

Course Vegetable Side Dish, Vegetarian Main
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 4 oz (125 g) lacinato kale
  • ¼ cup (34 g) pine nuts, more for garnish
  • Shy ounce (26 g) Italian parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets 1 tsp white miso paste for a vegan substitute, optional
  • 2 TB capers rinsed and dried
  • 2 TB red wine vinegar
  • ¼ - ½ tsp red pepper flakes (Depending on how hot you want the sauce)
  • ¼ tsp Kosher salt
  • A couple of rounds of fresh black pepper
  • ½ cup (125 ml) 125 ml extra virgin olive oil plus more for the cauliflower
  • 1 large head of cauliflower

Instructions

Make the kale parsley sauce

  1. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
  2. Bring a large stock pot half full of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of Kosher salt to the pot. While the water is combing to a boil, clean and remove the stems from the lacinato kale. Chop the leaves into thirds. When the water reaches a brisk boil, add the kale and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove the kale from the boiling water with a spider or tongs and add to the ice water bath. Once the kale is cool to touch, drain from the water and spread out over a clean lint free kitchen towel. Gently pat dry. Set aside.

  3. Toast the pine nuts. Heat a small skillet over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Add the pine nuts. Keep the pine nuts in constant motion so they do not burn. Shake the pan and move it back and forth on the burner, or stir with a wooden spoon. The pine nuts are toasted when you start to smell a warm nutty scent and the pine nuts are slightly browned in parts, about 1 minute. Quickly pour the pine nuts onto a plate to cool. Set aside.
  4. Trim off most of the parsley stems and rough chop the parsley leaves.
  5. In a bowl of a food processor or blender, add the blanched kale and give it a few pulses to break it up and start to make a purée. Add the parsley and pulse to blend.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients, except the olive oil and pulse to create slightly textured purée. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  7. Pour out the kale sauce into a small bowl and add the olive oil. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside on the counter.

Cauliflower Steaks

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5

  2. Trim away any leaves from the base of the cauliflower head. Rest the cauliflower head on its bottom, stem end down, and cut the cauliflower head in half vertically. Push one half aside and cut ½ inch (1.5 cm) width slices making cauliflower steaks. You might only get two intact cauliflower steaks per side, and the remaining cauliflower may fall into pieces. Repeat with the other half.

  3. Spread the cauliflower steaks on a rimmed baking sheet and gently brush with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper.
  4. Heat a griddle pan or large skillet to medium high heat. I set my griddle to 325°F (160°C). When hot add the cauliflower steaks to the griddle or skillet and sear for about 5-6 minutes a side. Check after 4 minutes to see the progress. You want a nice brown sear along the flat surface of the cauliflower. Carefully turn the cauliflower steaks over and sear the opposite side.

  5. Place the cauliflower steaks on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until the cauliflower is tender in the middle, about 10-12 minutes.

  6. Plate the cauliflower steaks on a serving platter or individual plates, and drizzle with the kale parsley sauce. Garnish with pine nuts and chopped parsley and sliced grape tomatoes.

  7. Serve with grains or grilled or roasted meats and chicken.

Recipe Notes

If you want to make this a vegan meal, omit the anchovies and add white miso paste. Start with a teaspoon of miso paste and taste. It will give the kale parsley sauce some body similar to the anchovies, but you lose some of the Tuscan vibe in the sauce. Another alternative is just omit the anchovies and add more capers to your liking.

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce. A recipe for seared and roasted cauliflower steaks with a vibrant kale parsley sauce. Made with lucinato kale, Italian parsley, anchovies, capers, garlic and hot pepper flakes. Substitute white miso paste for the anchovies for a vegan version.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

There is nothing sexy about how I came up with this recipe for black bean tacos with kabocha squash. In truth the real impetus came from the fact I had some cooked black beans in the freezer and kabocha squash that was a couple of weeks old sitting on the counter. I had to use them or lose them. However mundane the origin of an idea, the process of creating a meal requires some inspiration and creativity and that is sexy.

Often, my inspiration for the food I cook comes from the people I feed. Between all my friends and family, I will take into consideration everyone’s diet preference. This is why you will find on my blog a selection of meals to serve, omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, low-glycemic, gluten-free, and dairy-free recipes. In these times, all cooks should have a few recipes that will feed their diverse community.

While creating this recipe for black bean tacos it was important to me that this recipe be suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. Therefore, any dairy is supplemental and added separately as a topping for individual tacos. That meant all ingredients in the beans and squash must be plant-based.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Distinctive flavor of Black Bean Tacos

This recipe started with frozen cooked black beans I made several months ago. Freshly cooked beans taste a lot better than canned beans, and they have a lot less salt. So, now and then I will plan and cook some fresh beans. However, I always have a selection of no-salt canned beans in my pantry. They are just too convenient and ideal for a spontaneous meal.

If you do want to cook with dried beans, add epazote and garlic to the pot when you cook them. Just like beans cooked with a ham hock, epazote and beans are a perfect pair. The flavor is so distinctive it is hard to describe. It is herbal and similar to Mexican oregano with some medicinal characteristics. The flavor is unique and thus there is no good substitute for epazote. However, once you taste beans cooked in epazote you will always want to eat them prepared this way. I use dried epazote, as fresh epazote is hard to come by in the east coast. You can find it online or at a Mexican market.

To make the black bean filling for my tacos, I sautéed some onions and minced garlic until soft and added some crumbled dried epazote and Kosher salt. Then I added the cooked black beans. Because I love beans cooked with smoked pork, the epazote helps me forget about the lack of pork and smoky flavor whenever I cook vegan beans. I’ll think to myself, “Oh these beans are soo good.” Not, “you know what these beans need, some bacon.”

The next thing I did to give the black beans a creamy texture. I puréed about a third of the sautéed beans and onions to a somewhat smooth consistency, then added the purée back to the skillet with the beans. This emulsion made the beans into a spread preventing any loose beans from slipping out of the tacos. They are similar to refried beans but with more texture.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Green Tacos, a recipe.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Spicy Winter Squash for Black Bean Tacos

The squash will take the longest to cook so I begin preparing the squash and cook everything else while they roast. I used kabocha squash, but butternut squash or pumpkin are good substitutes. Any winter squash is fine. The squash is where I punched up the flavor with lots of spices and ground chili pepper. Cayenne, cumin, ground coriander, ground garlic and Mexican oregano make up the spice mix. Whenever I roast vegetables and want a garlic note, I often use ground garlic because fresh minced fresh garlic will burn in a 400°F (200°C) oven. Nothing beats fresh garlic, but burnt garlic is very bitter.

Both the beans and the winter squash pair well with chili peppers, but I did not want to overdo it with the heat. Every meal needs a solid foundation to build from and the black beans are the structure from which the taco filling is built. If there is too much competition from the spices and chilies you can’t taste the food. Here, the bean filling and the winter squash do not compete for attention. The spicy winter squash nicely compliments the filling with its natural sweetness and spices. This flavor combination of chili heat with something sweet never ceases to amaze me.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Toppings for Black Bean Tacos

As I mentioned in my post about Fish Tacos, a taco is not a taco if avocados are not in them. I realize there are plenty of traditional tacos, like carnitas without avocado, but I look for any excuse to eat avocados and tacos is one of them. In all seriousness they fit with these tacos. Yet, with all these soft and creamy fillings something fresh to bite into is needed. Cucumber, iceberg lettuce and sliced radish are all great toppings with these tacos and a great way to get more vegetables in your meal. Or, serve them on the side in a salad with a citrus vinaigrette.

If you and your dinner companions eat dairy, I highly recommend using cotija cheese or feta cheese.  The briny and salty flavors punch up the earthy flavors of the beans and winter squash. It adds a much-needed bit of acid to make every thing stand out. I could not find cotija, so I used feta cheese and loved it.

If you do not eat dairy, add  pickled vegetables like onions or jalapenos to get that salty-briny punch.

The other toppings I believe make this black bean taco so special are peanuts and toasted hulled pumpkin seeds. They give some needed crunch to bite into between all the soft layers of beans and roasted squash and the nuttiness just fits right in.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

3 ways to heat up corn tortillas.

Final Thoughts

I started with a purpose use up the beans and kabocha squash but as I progressed my primary focus was to create a meal for vegetarian and vegan diets. Even though my children do not live at home any more, they still inspire me to create meals I believe they would enjoy. Now I have even more inspiration from my growing family with the addition of daughters-in-law. While making these tacos it gave me great pleasure knowing my daughter-in-law and brother-in-law would particularly appreciate these black bean tacos. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy this dinner. These tacos are very fulfilling with great of depth of flavor built in. You will not miss the meat.

I do not have a vegan dessert of my own to recommend but try this vegan chocolate cake recipe from Food 52.  For all other purposes, Yogurt Panna Cotta with Spiced Figs would pair nicely with these tacos and they can be made ahead. Or if you want a Mexican themed meal serve with Classic Margaritas and Double Coconut Pie.

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Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash

Black beans cooked with onions and epazote make a flavorful foundation for spicy roasted winter squash in these vegan black bean tacos. Add different toppings like feta or cotija cheese, or pickled onions or jalapenos for some extra brightness. Top each taco with nuts, avocado and salsa verde. To make these tacos really shine buy freshly made tortillas from a local taqueria or Mexican market. Vegetarian, vegan option and gluten free
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Winter Squash

  • 1 1 lb 12 oz / 788 g winter squash like butternut or kabocha
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¾ Kosher salt
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil

Black Beans

  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 oz 102 g white onion, minced (about half an onion)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic peeled, green germ removed and minced
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp dried epazote crumbled
  • 1 lb 500 g drained and rinsed cooked black beans, or 2 -15 oz can of black beans drained and rinsed. Reserve some of the bean liquid.
  • Kosher salt to taste

Assemble the Tacos

  • 8 corn tortillas
  • Roasted winter squash
  • Black bean spread
  • 1 avocado sliced thin
  • Cotija Cheese or Feta cheese
  • Creme fraiche optional
  • Small handful of cilantro minced
  • ¼ cup roasted salted peanuts
  • 2 TB hulled pumpkin seeds
  • Salsa verde

Instructions

Roast the winter squash

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C
  2. Peel the winter squash and slice into wedges, thicker than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.
  3. Place the winter squash in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. In a small bowl mix together Mexican oregano, cumin, coriander, cayenne, garlic powder and Kosher salt until evenly combined.
  5. Drizzle olive oil and spice mix over the prepared squash. Toss the wedges with your clean hands until they are completely coated with olive oil and spice mix.
  6. Place the seasoned squash on a baking sheet and arrange the wedges on their side. Bake in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.
  7. Check the squash and turn them over on the other side. Continue to bake until the centers are soft. Depending on the thickness of the squash wedges, determines how how long they need to roast. Mine took a total of 40 minutes, but they were very thick wedges.
  8. Turn down the oven to 350°F / 175°C and remove the squash. Loosely cover and keep warm. If you have a warming oven, keep the squash warm in there.

Black beans

  1. While the squash is roasting in the oven, cook the black beans. In a medium skillet, turn the heat to medium and heat the extra virgin olive oil. Add the minced onion and cook until soft but not browned. Stir occasionally so the onions do not burn or brown, about 6 - 10 minutes. Halfway through cooking the onions, add the minced garlic and epazote, and stir into the onions.
  2. Once the onions are done, add the cooked black beans and stir to mix, then cook until heated all the way through.
  3. Taste and correct seasoning with more Kosher salt, or epazote if needed.
  4. Turn off the heat and remove about a third of the cooked beans and place in a small bowl, or food processor. Add about 1 -2 tablespoons of reserved bean liquid and mush the beans with a fork, or purée with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Add the puréed beans back into the skillet with the black beans and onions. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat and loosely cover to keep warm.
  5. If you need to reheat the beans turn on the heat to medium and add a little extra virgin olive oil. Warm the beans until your desired temperature.

Tortillas

  1. Warm your tortillas in a 350°F (175°C) oven. Stack 4 tortillas and wrap in foil. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Place the tortillas in the oven and bake until warm for15 minutes. If possible, time it so tortillas and black beans are done at the same time. See blog story for a link about other ways to warm up tortillas.

Assemble the tacos

  1. Place a heaping tablespoon of the beans on a tortilla and spread it into a circle in the center of the tortilla. Place a couple of wedges of the winter squash on the beans. Add one slice of avocado. Garnish with some crumbled feta or cotija cheese, a dollop of creme fraiche, salsa verde, minced cilantro, peanuts and pumpkin seeds.
  2. Serve immediately

Recipe Notes

You will probably have more beans than you need. You can save the beans and make them into black bean spread or dip as an appetizer. Or serve with rice and roasted or sautéed vegetables for a complete vegetarian meal. Or as a side dish with grilled meats.

Nutrition Facts
Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash
Amount Per Serving (2 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Purée of Vegetable Soup

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

Oh baby it’s cold outside and nothing warms up a numb body better than a steaming hot bowl of soup. Purée of vegetable soup is an easy recipe made with ingredients typically found in a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator. Canned tomatoes, canned or fresh cannellini beans, onions, carrots and celery make up the foundation for this hearty soup. The additional ingredients, like herbs, spices and other vegetables, add extra body and flavor for a bright tasting vegetable soup with great depth of flavor.

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

Puree of Vegetable Soup recipe.

My original intention was to create a hearty tomato soup recipe. I love tomato soup, especially when paired with a grilled cheese sandwich. Essentially, I did develop a tomato soup, but one with a blended flavor of tomatoes, aromatics and legumes. As a result, compared to a traditional tomato soup, the tomato flavor is less pronounced. I found the generous amount of mixed vegetables softens the tomato flavor, creating a hearty and fresh tasting blend of garden delights.

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

I love living where there are four distinct seasons, but during this dark and chilly winter, I sometimes need a reminder of the sunny and warm days to come. These short days with harsh and biting temperatures can make a person feel sad and extra hungry. Do you find your appetite increases during the winter? Mine does. I believe the body needs extra calories to maintain a normal body temperature. That is my theory but some scientists disagree.

If you find you are always craving something extra during the winter, instead of reaching for a bunch of crackers, or cookies, make a bowl of vegetable soup. Not only will it provide sustenance and warm you up, the bright color and taste will lighten your winter mood and give hope for the spring days to come.

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

Warming winter foods:

Swedish meatballs

Beef stew with Horseradish Sauce

Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

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Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

Purée of Vegetable Soup

This is a fresh tasting and hearty soup perfect for cold fall and winter days. It is an easy and delicious soup made with canned tomatoes, canned white beans, onion, celery, and carrots. I also added fennel bulb for a brighter flavor. If you prefer, substitute it with roasted red pepper or any leafy green vegetable you wish. Also, any canned or fresh white bean works with this recipe. If you are using canned beans, make sure they are the low or no salt variety. Homemade stock is preferred, but low-salt store bought stock will work just fine. You can also use chicken stock if you are not making this a vegetarian meal. Fresh herbs like thyme, basil or tarragon are nice additions as well. Add the thyme instead of the Herbs of Provence, and the fresh basil or tarragon after the soup is puréed.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 7 cups
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion (about 9 oz / 254 g), minced
  • 3 celery stalks about 8 oz /223 g, minced
  • 2 carrots about 6 oz/ 165 g, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 fennel bulb about 7 oz / 219 g, minced (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup 60 ml dry white wine
  • 1- 28 oz can 800 g whole peeled tomatoes in purée
  • 1- 15 oz can 425 g cannellini beans
  • 2 1/2 cups 625 ml vegetable broth
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Garnish

  • 2 TB raisins
  • 2 TB chopped walnuts
  • 2 TB chopped celery leaves
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Small pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the minced onion, celery, carrots and bay leaf. Cook the vegetables until they begin to get soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. While cooking occasionally stir the vegetables so they don't brown or stick to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the fennel and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes, cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, about one minute.
  4. Add the white wine and cook until almost evaporated.
  5. Cut up the tomatoes into 3-4 irregular size pieces and add them and their juices to the vegetables. Add the vegetable stock and cannellini beans. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Taste the soup after 7 minutes and correct the seasoning with more Kosher salt and or fresh ground black pepper.
  6. Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
  7. Purée the soup with a blender or an immersion blender, until smooth or to your desired consistency.
  8. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and black pepper.
  9. Garnish with croutons, your favorite garnish, or the celery raisin walnut garnish.

Garnish

  1. Put all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix together. Taste and correct the seasoning. Let the garnish sit for 15 minutes before serving. Serve room temperature with the soup.

Recipe Notes

You can make this soup any consistency you like. If you do not own a blender or food processor, keep it chunky. Add more stock to thin it out if you think it needs it.
To make it smooth with chunks of vegetables, strain out about 2 cups (500 ml) of the cooked vegetables from the soup before you purée it. Once the soup is puréed to your desired consistency, add the mixed vegetables back in.

For more pronounced tomato flavor, add a tablespoon of tomato paste to the pot of cooked vegetables before you add the tomatoes and other liquid ingredients. You may need more stock to thin out the consistency.

Nutrition Facts
Purée of Vegetable Soup
Amount Per Serving (1.5 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Puree of Vegetable Soup, an easy recipe with bright fresh vegetable flavor.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry Recipe.

I love curries and I love vegetables, but when I cook them together, the vegetables just fall apart. Despite my best efforts, the cauliflower and sweet potatoes always break apart in the sauce. Vegetable curry is one of my favorite meals, but I was ready to give up on it. Fortunately, a few years ago I mentioned my frustration to one of my brother’s in law, and he suggested roasting the vegetables instead of boiling them in the sauce. His suggestion was so simple, but was the perfect solution to improve the curry’s texture.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

The original recipe is from Fine Cooking, “South Indian Style Vegetable Curry” by Ellie Krieger, which I’ve made several times. Unfortunately, the vegetables went from perfect to overcooked in a matter of seconds. Roasting the cauliflower flowerettes and sweet potato chunks made a huge difference in appearance and taste. This technique developed vegetables with a firmer texture and a sweeter flavor. As a result, the curry sauce did not overwhelm the vegetables, but created more body to stand up against the complexity of the spices. My beloved vegetable curry recipe was reborn.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

Not that the sauce needed more flavor, but I couldn’t stop myself and added an additional curry spice blend to the roasted vegetables. To compliment the existing spices in the vegetable curry recipe, I sprinkled Massale curry, over the cauliflower and sweet potatoes. It is a sweet curry spice blend, like spices used in the vegetable curry.

The downside to roasting the cauliflower and sweet potatoes is, that the curry is no longer a one pot meal. Now, it is a one pot and one sheet-pan meal. Despite the additional cleanup, this recipe is worth the extra step because the cauliflower and sweet potatoes taste so much better this way. Besides, cleaning the sheet pan is easy if you deglaze it with extra vegetable stock then add the stock to the curry. This extra step is up to you if you want it. The good news is, that the vegetables roast while the onions, carrots, tomatoes and Swiss chard cook in the curry sauce on the stove. If timed right, both sets of vegetables will finish cooking around the same time.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

If you want more vegan meals check out these links: Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille  and Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Apricots and Pistachios. 

Fine Cooking and Ellie Krieger wrote a solid recipe, but I made several changes for extra depth of flavor. Roasting the cauliflower and sweet potatoes is key for creating a substantial body with the curry. Everything else I changed to enhance the flavor. First, I added wine to brighten the flavors. Then I swapped Swiss chard for the spinach to make it more substantial and added raisins because curries need some fruit to counter the heat. My last change is adding salted cashews for a garnish with some cilantro. The cashews add a crunchy bite against the tender vegetables while also adding more protein.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients and instruction scare you away. Making this curry is not as complicated as the lengthy lists implies. Like any vegetarian meal, the biggest hurdle is chopping all the vegetables. Once the chopping is done, the cooking is very straightforward.

Vegetable curry is a great meal for a vegetarian/vegan dinner. I love how the coconut milk compliments this signature blend of sweet and savory spices, especially the cinnamon. During these colder months, vegetable curry is a big soothing bowl full of comfort and joy.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry Recipe.

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South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

Indian Style Vegetable Curry

The warm spices of coriander, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne meld together with coconut milk and an array of vegetables making and Indian style curry with just the right amount of heat. Roasting the cauliflower and sweet potatoes helps them to retain their shape in the curry and not break down. A mixture of broccoli and cauliflower also works nicely in the curry, but add more cauliflower than broccoli. Spinach can be substituted for the Swiss Chard, however add the spinach towards the end of cooking when you add the roasted vegetables. The spinach does not need as much time to cook as Swiss chard does. This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking South Indian Style Vegetable Curry.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 6 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 small head cauliflower cut into flowerettes
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes (1 large or 2 small), peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) size pieces
  • 1/2 red onion sliced into 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide wedges
  • 1 tsp curry spice blend optional
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 TB 60 ml extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion minced
  • 1 2- inch 5 cm piece ginger, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 TB ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 2-3 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup 125 ml dry white wine
  • 1-13.6 fl oz 403 ml can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cup 375 ml vegetable stock
  • 3 medium size carrots peeled and sliced on a diagonal
  • 4 oz 125 g Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped into bite size pieces, the leaves sliced across the width
  • 3 plum tomatoes seeds removed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 cup 80 g raisins
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-15 oz 425 g can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • Juice and zest of one lime
  • Handful of cilantro chopped
  • Handful of salted cashews rough chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C / Gas Mark 6) and place the rack in the middle position.
  2. Arrange the cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and onion slices on a large sheet pan in an even layer. Drizzle 2 TB (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, the Kosher salt, and ground curry (if using) over the vegetables and toss until the vegetables are evenly coated. Place the vegetables in the oven and roast until just tender, about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, check for doneness by piercing the cauliflower and sweet potatoes to see if they are tender. Continue to roast the vegetables, checking every 10 minutes as needed. You want the vegetables to be just cooked through and not too soft.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a 5 qt (4.75 L) Dutch oven over medium high heat then add the remaining 2 TB (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the minced onions and cook until soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. While cooking, stir every now and then so the onions don't stick to the pan.
  4. Add the minced garlic and minced ginger to the cooked onions and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the Swiss chard stem pieces and stir to coat and cook for a minute.
  5. Add the ground coriander, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, and cinnamon stick to the pan and stir to mix. Gently toast the spices for one minute.
  6. Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute. Then add the wine and deglaze the pan. Cook until the wine mostly evaporates.
  7. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock and stir until the coconut cream and water is mixed together.
  8. Add the carrots, Swiss chard, and tomatoes and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir the pot every now and then to keep the coconut milk from separating. Control the heat and keep the sauce at a simmer and not a brisk boil. This will keep the coconut milk from curdling.
  9. Once the roasted vegetables and the vegetables in the curry sauce are done, add the roasted vegetables, chickpeas, and raisins to the pot with the carrots, tomatoes, and Swiss Chard. Stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes to warm up the chickpeas.
  10. Turn off heat, and add the lime zest, lime juice, and chopped cilantro.
  11. Garnish with chopped cashews and chopped cilantro. Serve with white or brown rice.
South Indian Style Vegetable Curry Recipe.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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