I love to cook and I love to eat good food.  Alas, the fact that I work 9-5 means that I can't do either as much as I would like, and like many I am often stuck at my desk during my lunch "hour".  My solution is to try to bring my lunch to work as much as I can.  This is my collection of recipes, all made quickly the night before (either as lunch or as dinner with leftovers that can be taken in).  Happy eating.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Barley and quinoa stuffed squash

I never seem to have enough time or energy, so I love anything that gives me a little extra.  One pot meals?  Fantastic -- less to clean up.  Food that provides its own dish?  Even better.  Squash was made to become the golden bowl for any variety of fillings.  

Squash always seemed to be such a funny name for a plant that is, in fact, rather expansive.  A few bits of trivia: the English word "squash" derives from askuatasquash (a green thing eaten raw) from the Narragansett language (according to my Wikipedia).  The game of Squash seems to have gotten its name from a rather more literal description of what the ball does when it hits the wall.  And we also have Squash the drink, popular in England and the Commonwealth, which is a fruit-based juice concentrate that becomes a juice drink when diluted with water.  Imagine liquid Tang and you're on the right track.

I prefer my Squash to be of the green/yellow/orange thing eaten roasted variety.  I wouldn't recommend trying to hit one against a wall.

One squash of your choice.  Kabocha, sugar pumpkin, or delicata are all good since they have a generous cavity for stuffing.  This amount of stuffing will probably fill two butternut squash.
1 medium onion, chopped (or 4 fat green onions, sliced thinly)
1 large clove garlic, minced
3/4 C. barley
1/4 C. quinoa
2 C. water
1/4 C. dried cherries, chopped
1/4 C. toasted walnuts, chopped
1-2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt, or to taste
2 T. chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut squash in half, brush with olive oil, and place cut side down on a pan into the oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until tender.
In a medium saucepan, cook the onion and garlic until soft.  Add the barley and water, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Add quinoa, and cook until the barley is soft and the quinoa has popped open (another 15 minutes or so).  Most of the water should have been absorbed, so watch the pan at this point so it doesn't burn.  

Stir in the cherries, walnuts, salt and vinegar to taste.  Stuff into the baked squash and return to the oven for 5 minutes.  Top with parsley.

Serves 2 as a main dish.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Celeriac and potato soup

I think we are by now all familiar with my obsession with root vegetables.  I'll go underground for just about anything, but suddenly my vegetable box kept turning up some gnarled and gnarly roots: celeriac.  Smooth on one side, the other a mass of little, hair-like roots, the rough exterior hides the pale and delicate flavor on the inside.  Celeriac is fantastic mashed with potatoes, but I like to make it into a creamy soup.  The subtle flavor of celery is set off perfectly by serving it with some thinly sliced baguette spread with a creamy blue like St Agur. 

Because celeriac comes in so many shapes and sizes, and the amount of flesh you can get out of the root side is so variable, I tend to do this recipe by weight.  I also throw in a can of white beans before blending to give it some extra protein and body.  You could leave them out, peel the potatoes, strain the soup through a fine sieve, and serve a silky, light soup.  I personally like the heartier, more rustic version pictured here.   

1 large onion, chopped
1 big clove garlic, minced
1 celery root (about 1.5 lbs.), peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 medium potatoes (about 3/4 to 1 lbs.), cut into 1 inch cubes
4-6 cups vegetable stock depending on how thick or thin you want the soup
1 can white beans 
A good pinch of freshly ground pepper

Chop onion and cook it gently in a stock pot.  Add the garlic, and once it's softened, add the celeriac, potatoes, and vegetable stock.  Bring to the boil, then lower heat and let simmer until the vegetables are soft.  Add the beans, then blend until smooth.  Garnish with parsley or blue cheese toasts.

Serves 4.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Linguine with tuna and greens

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to getting help, so here goes:  I'm a canaholic.  I know we're not supposed to use canned beans, canned tomatoes, or other things that we should be buying, canning, and boiling in bulk ourselves, but I just can't give up the habit.  My shelf is stacked high with all varieties of beans, chopped tomatoes, whole tomatoes, anchovies, sardines, and, my favorite staple, tuna.  This is not your grandmother's tuna casserole tuna.  These is not the water packed, shreds of tuna you may have used for tuna sandwiches in the dining hall.  Bumblebee tuna -- though it may have its place in the annals of food history, nestled between cream of mushroom soup and breadcrumbs -- I could probably give up cold turkey.  But quality, Italian style, olive oil packed tuna: I just can't quit it.

This is a great weeknight meal which (I think) sounds pretty good, but tastes even better.  Quick, easy, and made from ingredients which I usually have on my shelf.  Any time the craving strikes, I'm good to go.

1 lb. linguine
1/3 C. olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
big pinch red pepper flakes
7oz./200g can good quality tuna in olive oil
4 C. (or more) arugula or other leafy green
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan (optional)
Wedge of lemon (not optional)

Cook pasta in salted, boiling water. While pasta cooks, heat olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes over low heat until garlic is fragrant and soft.

Add tuna and break it up as you stir it around. Season with salt to taste.

Drain pasta, reserving 1 C. pasta water. Return pasta to pan and stir in arugula over medium heat until wilted. Add tuna mixture to pasta, adding pasta water as necessary to thin the sauce and moisten the pasta.

Serve with parmesan if desired, and a good squeeze of lemon -- mandatory.

Serves 4-6.

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