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Go-to dinner

May 12, 2009

Everyone needs to have a dinner for those days when you want to eat at home, but can’t really stand the thought of cooking anything elaborate. Yes, you can snack, or just make some scrambled eggs, but sometime I want something nurturing, deeply satisfying, and delicious. Now, I don’t know if this is odd or not, but I don’t really get junk food cravings, no, I get greens and brown rice cravings. Admittedly, that stuff can be really bland, unless of course you know how to make it tasty. And I do ;) Lately my go-to meal has been brown rice, kale, and sweet potatoes. To make it extra wonderful, I’ll add an olive-oil fried egg, still runny.

If you haven’t tried greens with sweet potatoes before, I think you should give it a shot. The bitterness of the greens combined with the sweetness of the yams balances perfectly. The brown rice, made with broth for extra flavor, gives the dish heft, and the egg makes it decadent. And the best part is, it’s SO easy. You can make the brown rice ahead of time, or just start it ten minutes before everything else. After that, everything else comes together pretty effortlessly. So here it is:

Brown Rice, Kale, and Sweet Potatoes

For the brown rice:

1 cup brown rice (I used texmati)
2 1/4 cups chicken broth, or water and one bullion cube
(all bullion is definitely not created equal. I use rapunzel and really like it)

For the sweet potatoes:

2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

For the kale:

1 glug olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 small yellow onion, or 1/2 of a large onion, chopped fine
1 tsp cumin
1 pinch salt, ground pepper to taste
1 bunch lacinato kale (any other type would work too), washed and chopped into ribbons

To make the brown rice:

Combine the brown rice and the broth (or the water and the bullion) in a small pot. Cover, and bring to a boil over medium high heat (watch it carefully so it doesn’t boil over!) Once it comes to a boil, bring the heat down to low, stir once, re-cover, and continue cooking for 40 minutes or so until, the rice is tender, but still has a little bit of a bite.

For the potatoes:

While the brown rice is cooking, place the potatoes in a steam basket over simmering water, cover, and steam for 10-15 minutes, until fork tender.

For the kale:

Warm the glug of olive oil in a large pan or pot over medium heat. Toss in the onions and, after a minute or so, the garlic. The oil shouldn’t be hot yet- you want the onions and garlic cook slowly until the onions have softened a bit, about 5 minutes.

At this point, add the salt and the cumin, and stir to mix. Let the cumin warm up for a minute or so, then turn up the heat a little and add the kale. Stir it all around to distribute the onions and garlic throughout the kale, and then cook until the kale wilts, about five minutes or so. Some kale has more structure than others, so if you’re using a really hearty variety, you may want to add a tablespoon or so of water, cover the pot, and steam for a couple of minutes. Season with ground pepper, and more salt if it needs it.

Now, there are a few ways to eat this. You can combine it all in the pot and mix it there, or you can do a layered type of presentation in a bowl. The latter is my favorite. I like to put some brown rice on the bottom, then the kale, and then the sweet potatoes. I usually drizzle a little bit of soy sauce over the whole thing.

Also, at this point, you could also fry up an egg in some olive oil and lay it over everything so that when you cut into it, the yolk runs down over everything, making a kind of a sauce. That’s what I did tonight.

hello beautiful

February 7, 2009

Do you ever wander around the kitchen at night wanting something, not figuring out what it is, and then finally realizing that you’re just looking forward to coffee the next morning?  I think that this banana bread is the breakfast to go with that coffee.  This is a gentle banana bread, more cakelike than bready, with soft and comforting undertones.  If you bake it just right (well, at least in my opinion), the bread surrounding the inevitable crack down the middle will still be a little bit gooey.  I can never resist dipping my finger in to grab a little bit of the gooey part before the loaf cools.  Don’t tell, although I’m pretty sure I get caught any time anyway.

What I like about this specific banana bread is the use of both butter and yogurt.  A lot of banana breads use oil which makes them very moist, but a little greasy and tasteless, in my opinion.  The yogurt keeps the moisture factor covered, anyway.

You could always go with variations.  I want to try substituting pears for the bananas.  I have no idea if it would work, but I plan on giving  it a shot.  You could add shredded coconut (1/2 C) and swap out the walnuts for macadamia nuts, or add cinnamon and maybe even a tablespoon or so of rum.

 

Banana Bread

adapted from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

makes one 8-inch loaf

  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 C brown sugar or evaporated cane juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large very ripe bananas (best if they have a lot of black spots)*
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 C whole or low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C (2 ounces) walnuts or pecans, toasted
  • 1/2 C raisins

 

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.

2. Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl, whisk the mashed bananas, melted butter, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla together.  Gently fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined (if it’s a little bit lumpy that’s OK, just don’t overmix it).  Fold in the walnuts.  The batter should look thick and lumpy.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 55 minutes (but check a bit earlier), rotating the pan halfway through baking.

4. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour before serving.

*I always find myself with a few bananas that are going black on me.  That’s great- I just peel them and throw them in the freezer until I feel like making banana bread.  It only takes an hour or so on the counter and they’re ready to go.  If you don’t have any super-ripe bananas (either fresh or frozen), America’s Test Kitchen has a great tip: oven-ripening the bananas.  Here’s how:

While the oven preheats, throw your yellow bananas (in their skins) on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven for 15 minutes or so.  The skins will turn black but the flesh will get softer and sweeter.  One note- this trick won’t work with green bananas, which are too far from ripeness to be useful here.

 



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