Sunday, December 27, 2009

Baked Eggs with Mashed Potatoes & Leeks

There were a couple times when I was a kid that my brother Sean and I slept over at my grandparent's house. My Papa was a pretty no-nonsense type of guy who didn't talk much but was captivating in his own way. He would stump me with questions like, "what's the price of the rice in China?" and would take me to Baskin Robbins, with one nod letting us get two scoops(!) of ice cream on our cones.

One day Sean and I were obediently sitting in the kitchen watching as Papa fixed us breakfast. He started scrambling some eggs, making toast and everything was going along fine until he took out some leftover mashed potatoes and with two big PLOPS, spooned them right into the pan with our eggs and mixed it all together. We shot eachother a concerned glance but didn't dare question his wisdom, especially since this was the house where bologna was fried and pig's feet were consumed. To our delight, the potatoeggs were delicious...a taste sensation! These baked eggs are my homage to that breakfast so many years ago.

Baking is my favorite way to prepare eggs and a perfect brunch dish when guests are arriving as they go right in the oven without much fuss at all. I love the creamy leeks at the bottom and the faintest bit of cream on top enhances the silky smooth texture of the egg and potato. Anytime there are mashed potatoes left over, I encourage you to give this dish a shot.

For 2 servings:
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup mashed potatoes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter two 4-ounce ramekins and set aside.

In a small skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Divide the leeks between the ramekins. Spoon a 1/3 cup of mashed potatoes over the leeks in each ramekin and smooth the top. Crack an egg into each ramekin. Drizzle a teaspoon of cream over each egg and sprinkle with pepper.

Place the ramekins into a glass baking dish. Pour hot water into the dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the dish tightly with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the eggs have reached the desired consistency. Remove from the water, place on a plate and serve with toast for dipping.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha, Lime and Honey Glaze

When my New Yorker Magazine arrives in the mail, I read through it in a ritualistic fashion: first the Tables for Two article, then the movie review, Talk of the Town next, and lastly, I proceed to the feature articles. The Tables for Two article, which is concise yet satisfyingly descriptive, allows me to dream of all the places in New York I'd like to eat.

In one of the last issues, The Vanderbilt was reviewed which proclaimed that one of the best dishes on the menu was the brussels sprouts dressed with sriracha, lime and honey. I don't know why my view of Brussels Sprouts has been so narrow but I never considered any sort of Asian-influenced preparation.

I grow brussels sprouts in my garden, I love them, and realize that I have been in a definite rut in the way I've been preparing them. Typically, I cook up some diced pancetta while the sprouts are roasting in the oven. I toss the pancetta with the sprouts, and then drizzle some balsamic reduction to finish. It's delicious and a crowd pleaser. After I read that article though, I was ready for something new. I have no clue how this recipe is supposed to be prepared but I took a stab at it and the results were tremendous. I can see using this simple glaze for other vegetables, as well as tofu, chicken or seafood.

For 2-4 servings:

  • 3 cups brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1½ tablespoons honey
  • ½-1 teaspoon sriracha
  • The juice of half a lime
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Trim the woody ends off the brussels sprouts and then slice them in half lengthwise. On a baking sheet, toss the brussels sprouts with the peanut oil and season lightly with salt. Place in the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Toss the sprouts and roast for 10 minutes more.

Meanwhile, whisk together the honey, sriracha and lime juice until combined. After the brussels sprouts have roasted for 20 minutes, pour the glaze over them, toss to combine, and roast for 2 minutes more. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with the peanuts, and serve immediately.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

There have been many holidays that I have hosted and attended where the person in charge of mashed potatoes is dealing with the boiling and mashing right before it's time to eat which is hardly convenient. This recipe is fantastic because it calls for the potatoes to be made the night before and refrigerated. This isn't a gimmick because the potatoes themselves turn out creamy, fluffy and luxurious.

I got this recipe from my good friend Diana, an excellent cook, and it's become a go-to dish whenever the event calls for mashed potatoes which should be always, in my opinion. I'm not sure why exactly, but these reheat really well too, maybe because of the cream cheese, and so if there are any leftovers I'm sure you'll be pleased with the results.

For 8-10 servings:
  • 4 pounds Russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, divided
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

Peel the potatoes and cut them into 2-inch chunks. Add the potatoes to a large pot and cover with cold water. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Drain and add the potatoes to the bowl of a mixer. With the whisk attachment, beat the potatoes for about a minute until mashed and then, with the mixer running on low, add the cream cheese, butter, 1/4 cup of the milk and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Once the ingredients are thoroughly combined, transfer to an oven-safe glass baking dish, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of milk over the potatoes, cover the dish, and place in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, stir the potatoes, and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes. Stir once more and serve immediately.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gingerbread Caramels

Gingerbread might just be one of my most favorite things in the world and this recipe, infusing traditional holiday spices into a delicious caramel is genius. It appeared in Martha Stewart Living 3 years ago and I've been making them ever since. I've tweaked the recipe by increasing the spices and changing the method a bit.

Caramel making has that danger element to it as the molten mixture bubbles and boils in the pot. When it first comes to a boil, it seems as if it might boil right over which is a little terrifying but keep stirring and it will all be fine. The first time I made these they were good, but not spicy enough, and I had pockets of spice that weren't incorporated so I've remedied this by stirring the spices together beforehand and then mixing them in thoroughly once it comes to temperature.

I can say with confidence that these are some of the best caramels I've ever had.

For about 12 dozen:

  • 2 pints heavy cream
  • 2 cups light corn syrup
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
  • ½ cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

Coat a 12x17 rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line it with parchment paper leaving a 2-inch overhang on the short sides of the sheet. Lightly spray the parchment with cooking spray.

In a large pot over high heat, add the heavy cream, corn syrup, sugar, butter, and molasses, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high, stirring frequently, allowing it to reach a temperature of 248 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, stir together the salt and spices in a small bowl. As soon as the caramel reaches 248 degrees, take it off the heat and stir in the spices and vanilla carefully as it might spatter a bit. Stir the caramel continuously for 30 seconds to incorporate the spices into it, making sure there aren't any pockets of spice hiding. Pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet. Martha says not to scrape the pot--I scrape the pot and things always turn out fine. Allow the caramel to set for 24 hours without moving it.

Place a large cutting board over the baking sheet and flip it over. Peel the parchment off of the caramel and discard. With a large sharp knife, cut the caramel into 1-inch wide strips and then cut each strip into bite-sized pieces. Cut wax paper into approximately 3x3 squares and wrap each caramel in it. The caramels will keep for at least a month.

Adapted from a recipe in Martha Stewart Living

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ginger Honey Lemon Tonic

The Chef and I had a major case of the sniffles recently. I spent days laid up on the couch, a pile of kleenex, cough drops, and NyQuil grossly surrounding me. I'm sure like most people I crave specific, uniquely comforting things to eat when I'm sick--in my case, Mrs. Grass's soup, grape popsicles and strawberry shakes from McDonald's (I can't explain it).

Luckily for me, The Chef recovered first and kindly waited on me and my snots. He made this soothing tonic one night and I am convinced it sped me on to a quicker recovery. Honey and lemon are one of those classic flavor combinations, sweet and tart, and the added zing of ginger keeps it interesting. I've already been daydreaming of making a sparkling, chilled version of this in the warmer months.

For 2-3 servings:
  • 2-inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • Honey, to taste
  • 3 cups water

Peel and slice the ginger into thin strips. Mash it with the side of a knife to release the juices. Pack the ginger into a tea ball.

In a saucepan, add the water and the tea ball. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour the hot ginger water into a glass, squeeze the wedge of lemon into it and stir in 1-2 teaspoons of honey. Taste and add more honey and lemon if desired.

The ginger water can be stored in the refrigerator until ready to reheat and use.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Peppermint Delights

My mom has one of those recipe boxes, notecard sized, stuffed with handwritten family recipes and clippings from old Chicago Tribune newspapers. She has an inordinate number of Apple Cake recipes that she cut out of the paper which I can say I have never seen her bake.

These cookies came from that recipe box and as good as they taste, the memories I have of helping bake them are even better. The candy canes that go into these cookies need to be crushed and so my mom would arm me with a hammer and a sealed baggie filled with candy canes. I would hunker down on the ground and crush away. It felt very official and like serious work--I loved it.

These cookies are unique not only because of the crushed candies but also because of the large amount of oats in them that bake up crisp and crumbly. I love the minty flavor and can't imagine a Christmas without them.

For 3 dozen cookies:

  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup regular rolled oats
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/3 cup crushed candy canes
  • ½ cup granulated sugar, for flattening cookies

Combine butter and sugar and beat until creamy. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts. Gradually beat in the flour. Stir in the oats and candy. Wrap the dough in wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place them, 3 inches apart, on an ungreased baking sheet. Place the granulated sugar into a bowl. Butter the bottom of a glass, dip it into the sugar and flatten the cookies, redipping into the sugar for each ball of dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until the edges are barely golden. Let cool on the baking sheet for a couple minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies will keep for about a week or so.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

I was a notorious vegetable-hater when I was a kid and cauliflower was at the top of my list. I would give it the side-eye while it laid there limp and tasteless on my plate. I suspect my dislike was partly due to the way it was prepared (I hope my mom is not reading this). She would buy a frozen blend that included cauliflower, broccoli and small flecks of red bell pepper. It was boiled and heaped on my plate where it would ooze water. This bothered me because I didn't want any byproduct of said veggie mix to invade the goodness of whatever else I was eating.

It's only since I've grown up and realized that normal, healthy humans eat a variety of vegetables that I started to both force myself to like them and come up with ways of preparing them that pleased my formerly picky palate. I have been especially enthusiastic about cauliflower recently and this simple soup is a great example of turning an ordinary vegetable into something special.

Cauliflower, a little wine, whole milk and a sprinkling of nutty Gruyere blends together to create a delicate tasting soup. I had the perfect wintery lunch the other day serving this soup with some crusty bread and a green salad.

For 4-6 servings:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large head cauliflower, cored and chopped into 2-inch pieces
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 3½ cups vegetable stock
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • Gruyere, for garnish

In a large pot, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and garlic, sautéing for about 15 minutes until soft and translucent.

Raise the heat to medium-high and add the cauliflower, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the wine, and bring to a boil. Cook, allowing the alcohol to evaporate, about 2 minutes more. Stir in the stock, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer the soup for 20-25 minutes until the cauliflower is very soft.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender, or, blend it in batches in a food processor or blender. For an extra-smooth texture, pour the soup through a sieve. Return the soup to the pot over medium heat. Stir in the milk, taste and add salt if needed. Cook until heated through and serve, sprinkled with some freshly grated Gruyere.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Date, Orange and Fennel Salad

Every year as December approaches, I tell myself not to overindulge in holiday merriment. I perpetually fail at this and wind up on a sweets-free January detox which is mostly miserable. This year I am trying to make a go of eating as healthy as can be expected during the holidays. Each day I try to load up on fruits, vegetables and have had good success at whipping up interesting and good-for-me meals like this salad.

I made this for lunch the other day after buying some dates on a whim. I really love the contrasting and complimentary flavors. The citrus bite of the oranges, the mellow sweetness of the dates, the sharp crunch of the fennel and the toastiness of the hazelnuts makes for a delicious combination - both unique and healthy.

I wasn't sure at first how to dress this salad but ultimately decided to keep it simple and light. A small drizzle of walnut oil along with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice and the barest sprinkling of sea salt was just what it needed.

For one serving:
  • 1 orange
  • 2-3 dates, pitted and sliced into thin strips
  • 6 slices of shaved fennel
  • 8 hazelnuts
  • 2 large leaves of butter lettuce
  • Walnut oil
  • Lemon
  • Sea salt
In a small skillet, toast the hazelnuts until browned and fragrant. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Place the hazelnuts in a towel and rub them together to remove the skins. Coarsely chop the nuts.

Cut off both ends of the orange and then slice off the peel and pith. With a sharp paring knife, cut out the orange segments from the membranes.

Toss the lettuce, hazelnuts, orange segments, fennel and dates in a bowl. Drizzle a little walnut oil and lemon juice over the salad. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and serve immediately.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Brown Sugar Walnut Ice Box Cookies

When I was a kid I went crazy for these cookies my Gram baked around Christmas. I knew them simply as "Ice Box Cookies" which are actually a type of cookie, meaning, the dough is stored in the freezer. Ice box cookies are absolutely ideal for the holidays as the dough can be prepared and frozen well ahead and then simply sliced and baked when convenient.

This might be the most well-loved recipe in my Gram's repertoire and she was the only one who ever made them as far as I know. She wrote down the recipe for me years ago but this is the first time I've made them and I can't tell you how many memories they brought back when I could smell them baking. They are just as I remember - humble in appearance, but perfectly delicious in flavor and texture.

I'm a sucker for any sort of crispy cookie and these are my gold standard. The key is to slice them very thinly...if a thick one manages to sneak into the bunch, the magic is lost.

For 6 dozen or so:

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

In the bowl of a mixer, cream butter and shortening together. Add the sugars, then the eggs, mixing well and scraping the bowl down once or twice.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to the mixing bowl and beat until just combined. Fold in the walnuts.

Turn the dough out onto a sheet of wax paper and with your hands, form it into a rectangular-shaped log about 4 inches in diameter. Roll the log up with the wax paper, tie both ends, and place in the freezer overnight or until ready to bake. One long log can be made, or several, depending on your preference and freezer space.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Thinly slice the dough about an 1/8-inch thick and place 1-inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges are just golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Keep the remaining dough in the freezer until ready to use. The cookies will keep in a covered container for several weeks.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Adult Eggnog

'Tis the season for boozy holiday drinks! When I was growing up, I loved eggnog. My idea of sweet, thick, yellow eggnog was a bit shattered when one of my neighbors started giving my mom a bottle of her own homemade variety. I had a small sip and gasped at the burning alcohol taste. Blech! I couldn't understand why anyone would ruin one of my favorite holiday treats.

Tastes change of course and several years ago I started making my own "adult" eggnog based on a Rick Rodgers recipe and actually scaled back on the amount of booze that he uses. Depending on your preference you can increase or decrease the amount of alcohol but beware, this is a dangerous concoction. Luckily, it's rich enough from the cream and eggs that it keeps one from overdoing it. Sometimes.

The quality of alcohol is very important here. The nog will taste harsh if the cheap stuff is used. I go with Bacardi Special Dark Rum, Knob Creek Bourbon or a good Irish whiskey, and whatever decent type of brandy I have on hand.

For about 2 quarts:

  • 6 pasteurized eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup brandy
  • 3/4 cup dark rum
  • 1/3 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the eggs and sugar. Beat on high for a couple minutes until thick and creamy. With the mixer on low, add the heavy cream, half & half, vanilla, brandy, rum, bourbon, and nutmeg.

Pour the egg nog into a large pitcher and chill overnight. It will keep, refrigerated, for 2 days. Garnish with a sprinkling of additional nutmeg, if desired.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake

Much like Guestblogger Alita, I can't get enough cranberries this time of year. I love cake for breakfast so there is no question that I will be trying this recipe out soon. Thanks to Alita for the perfect holiday brunch recipe! --A Crafty Lass

I love that it is cranberry season - I can’t stop myself from buying fresh cranberries every time I go to the store this time of year. But, it always surprises me how quickly they disappear from the produce section after the holidays, so I usually freeze a few bags and use them well into the new year.

I love the cranberry's bright red tartness and the way they kind of melt when baked. Their nutrient content and antioxidant qualities aren’t bad either! Cranberries are a “superfood” and any time I can incorporate healthy ingredients into my desserts, I consider it a small victory.

Over the years, I have developed several cranberry baked goods into my repertoire. Family favorites include a simple but delicious Cranberry Orange Scone & a brilliantly red Cranberry Upside Down Cake. This particular recipe is well on its way to being a new favorite. It's suitable as a morning cake and pairs well with a hot cup of coffee or tea. It will likely grace our table for Christmas morning brunch.

The Bottom:
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • ¾ - 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

The Cake:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1¼ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

The Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the cranberries: Toss the cranberries with ¾ cup sugar (a little more if you want a sweeter version), cinnamon & orange zest and pour into a greased 9-in square pan.

Prepare the cake: cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, milk, extract & orange zest and mix well. In a small bowl, combine the flours, baking powder & salt and add to the butter mixture. Drop the batter by spoonfuls over the cranberries & carefully spread to cover the entire surface.

Prepare the topping: combine the sugars with the ginger, cinnamon and oats and cut in the butter until it become crumbly. Sprinkle the oat mixture over the cake and bake for 40-50 minutes.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Shelly's Crab Dip

I am fortunate to have been in a book club for almost 10 years. My girls and I have read close to 100 books and discussed them over riotous nights of wine and hysterical laughter. One of the best things about our club is that we all love to eat, cook, bake and drink.

There are six of us and we switch off hosting - whomever hosts also picks the book. Whomever hosts also has had the shared of experience of having a complete and total pre-book club meltdown due to things just not going as planned. The thing is, we've all had some unfortunate kitchen disasters, or picked a crappy book, or just couldn't get it to all come together, but that's never what anyone remembers.

What we remember is the time that Lisa strutted out of the kitchen triumphantly presenting a crown roast of pork (with the little hats!) for our always special Christmas book club, or Tanya making so many courses, including 2 kinds of bread that she baked herself, that we all waved off dessert and sort of moaned for a while. Or when Christie borrowed her parents Raclette grill and introduced us to the joys of eating cheese on absolutely everything. Diana, our calmest member, knocks out multi-course dinners like it's a breeze, leaving us in awe of her total togetherness which her husband claims isn't the case in the hours before we all arrive.

This dip, from one of our alumni who moved to California a few years ago, is a book club classic. Shelly would always serve it as we arrived next to some delectably greasy tortilla chips she would buy from the Mexican restaurant down from her house. I have made it countless times since and it stands to reason it's so's essentially fat+fat+crab=goodness. I have doubled the recipe for parties and watched it disappear fast. I like to serve it with some carrots so I can pretend they will somehow make it less unhealthy. What are carrots good for anyway if not as a vehicle for dip?

For about 2 cups:

  • 6 ounce can lump crab meat, drained
  • 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 scallions, white and light green parts chopped
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

In a bowl stir together the crab meat, cream cheese, mayo, scallions and red pepper flakes until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate until ready to use. This dip can be made a day ahead. Serve with tortilla chips and carrots.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Parsnip Fries with Thyme and Lemon

Not only had I never eaten a parsnip until about 5 years ago, I'm certain I had a hard time even identifying them amongst all the produce in the grocery store. Originally I had them in a stew and it was definitely not love at first bite. They sort of laid there in the broth, beige and flavorless.

One thing I've learned over the years is that my preferred method for preparing most vegetables is to roast them. The heat of the oven transforms many humble vegetables into something pretty magical much in the same way that grilling does.

These parsnip fries are one of my favorite side dishes although admittedly, after I made them for this post, I just sat down and ate the whole batch on their own for lunch. I also stirred a little lemon juice into some mayonnaise and dipped the fries into it, which--yum. The herbal spiciness of the thyme really compliments the parsnip flavor, and the counterpoint of the tart zest livens them up considerably.

For 2 servings:

  • 2 parsnips
  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • Zest of half a lemon

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel the parsnips and trim each end. Cut the parsnips into half-inch thick slices. Place them on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, thyme and a generous pinch of kosher salt so that they are evenly coated. Put the baking sheet in the lower third of the oven.

After 10 minutes, toss the parsnips. Return to the oven for 10 minutes more. Toss again and place in the oven for an additional 5 minutes or until they are golden brown all over.

Remove the thyme stems and discard. Taste, and season with more salt if needed. Sprinkle with the lemon zest and serve immediately.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pomegranate Citrus Salad

I so look forward to autumn foods like pumpkin, cranberries, Brussels sprouts and pomegranates. I never tire of these flavors. Pomegranates in particular remind me somehow of the holidays and I think the jewel-like seeds add festive sparkle to a dish.

When good ingredients are on hand, sometimes simplicity is best. This composed salad is one of my go-to brunch dishes. The bracing citrus slices are sweetened and enhanced by the honey and orange liqueur "dressing" while the fresh mint not only contributes contrasting color but a freshness as well. The pretty pomegranate seeds are tart, juicy and a little crunchy.

A very sharp knife is essential here otherwise the citrus slices will get mangled. It comes together in no time and can even be made ahead a few hours and refrigerated. Pour the honey mixture over the dish right before serving it.

For 4 servings:

  • 2 oranges
  • 1 ruby red grapefruit
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Cointreau
  • 3-4 mint leaves, thinly sliced

Cut each end off the oranges and grapefruit and then cut the peel and pith off the sides so only the fruit remains. Slice the citrus into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange the slices on a serving platter. Scatter the pomegranate seeds over the citrus.

In a small bowl, stir together the honey and Cointreau. Drizzle it over the fruit. Sprinkle the mint over the top and serve.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Roasted Cauliflower & Orzo Salad

This started as a clean-out-the-fridge meal that turned into something amazing. Sometimes, happy accidents occur in the kitchen and this is one of them. The funny part is, I had to go out and re-buy the ingredients I was trying to use up in the first place in order to make this again and fine tune it for this post.

I used my favorite Raisin Fennel Bread for this recipe and it worked out splendidly. Any sort of crusty baguette will suffice, although the raisins really added something so throw in a handful if using a different type of bread.

I loved all the components of this dish: the caramelized cauliflower, the toasty croutons, the almost creamy spinach-flecked orzo and the astringency of the balsamic vinegar. However, I urge you to give plain old cauliflower this high-heat roasting treatment all on its own. It makes for an excellent side dish.

For 2-3 servings:

  • 3 cups cauliflower florets
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cubed crusty bread such as the Raisin Fennel Bread
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 3/4 cup frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, combine the cauliflower, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, red pepper flakes, and a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, stirring the cauliflower once. Add the bread cubes to the cauliflower and toss with a spatula to coat. Return the pan to the oven and roast for 5-10 minutes more until the cauliflower is browned and the bread cubes are golden and toasty.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo according to the package directions. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, add the spinach. Drain and return to the pot over low heat. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the Parmesan cheese and salt to taste.

Pour the orzo onto a plate and spoon the cauliflower mixture over it. Drizzle with the balsamic and serve immediately.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Miso Ginger Soup with Tofu Noodles

Today I was at my favorite Asian grocer, United Noodles, stocking up on some essentials I had run out of: rice vinegar, miso paste, sesame oil, and The Chef's favorite tea - Genmai-cha which is a toasted brown rice tea (very unusual but delicious, try it). I also had my eye on their vast tofu section because when you're penny-pinching like I am these days, you can't do better than tofu for a high-protein, low-fat, inexpensive meal.

A package of tofu noodles caught my eye. I knew tofu noodles existed but I've never tried them until today. I was betting they would be perfect in a soothing miso soup so I headed home and had this soup on the table in no time. It was so satisfying and perfect for a cool fall day.

The noodles themselves are fantastic. Pleasantly chewy and very healthy, they boast a mere 20 calories per 4 ounce serving. Be forewarned, they have sort of an alarming smell when you open the package so after you drain the liquid off of them, rinse them like crazy.

For 3-4 servings:

  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 6-¼-inch thick slices of ginger
  • 4-5 large dried shiitake mushrooms
  • ¼ cup white miso paste (the yellow-looking one)
  • 8 ounces tofu noodles
  • Scallion greens, chopped
  • A few drops of toasted sesame oil

  • Put the mushrooms in a bowl and pour boiling water over them, to cover. Cover the bowl and allow to steep for about 20 minutes. Drain off the water, pull off the tough center stem, and slice the mushrooms. Set aside.

    In a medium saucepan, add the stock and ginger. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes more. Remove the ginger and discard. Add the miso paste and stir until it dissolves. While the soup is simmering, drain the tofu noodles and rinse, very thoroughly, under cool water. Add the noodles to the soup and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

    Ladle the soup into a bowl and sprinkle with the chopped scallions. Add a few drops of sesame oil and serve.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Lentil and Squash Curry

    Last week I joined the millions of Americans who are unemployed. I wasn't exactly expecting to get laid off so after the initial shock, The Chef and I tried to come up with a plan as to how we can prevent ourselves from becoming hobos who live under a bridge and eat beans out of a can.

    Admittedly, I tend to sort of buy whatever I want at the grocery store. It's so tempting to grab a wedge of creamy blue cheese, some fancy Spanish crackers sprinkled with sugar and anise seeds, or a grass-fed steak to grill. These luxuries are nice, certainly, but they don't determine whether I am able to put together a good meal or not. Being frugal has caused me to be inventive, resourceful, and to not overlook everything I already have in the freezer, fridge and pantry.

    Feeling like contestants on Top Chef, we have been knocking out meals all week that solely use ingredients we already had on hand. The Chef threw together a delicious pork, mushroom and potato stew that we served over brown rice. He made his famous Salty Butterscotch Pudding for dessert (a future blog post, I promise). And I whipped up this delicious curry that is a definite keeper. I had a similar curry at a restaurant recently and tried to recreate those flavors here.

    One thing to be aware of - curry powders can vary like crazy. I used a sweet curry powder and started with 1 tablespoon. I kept adding more, eventually ending up using 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons.

    For 4-6 servings:
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 4 cups cubed butternut squash
    • 1-15 ounce can diced tomatoes
    • 1 can light coconut milk
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons curry powder (or, to taste)
    • 4 ounces frozen chopped spinach

    Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the squash and stir to coat with the oil, cooking for about 3 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, water, lentils, salt, red pepper flakes, and 1-2 tablespoons of the curry powder.

    Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. The curry should be thick. Taste it and add more salt and curry powder if needed. Stir in the spinach and simmer the curry for about 10 minutes more. Serve with warm whole wheat pita bread.

    This curry freezes well. Once cool, ladle the curry into a freezer bag, carefully pressing out any air, and store in the freezer.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Crusty Wheat, Raisin and Fennel Bread

    Anyone who has made the revolutionary no-knead bread that has become so popular knows that it’s a method that turns out a rustic, crusty, professional looking loaf every time. I’ve made a few different variations on it but this one is my current favorite.

    As it sometimes goes in the kitchen, the first loaf I made was a disaster that sadly ended up in the trash. I got a little overzealous at the thought of adding whole wheat flour to it and clearly, after I pulled the flat, dense, brick of a loaf out of the oven, I knew that I had overdone it. The second time, I backed way off the whole wheat flour and it was a definitive success. I think the next time I make it, I will change the ratio a bit and see if I can’t get a ½ cup more whole wheat flour in it.

    The raisins and fennel seeds was an idea given to me by my sister-in-law who had it in a restaurant and was taken with the bread. It’s really an excellent combination of flavors – the raisins add their golden sweetness while the fennel seeds somehow keep it savory.

    For one large loaf:

    • 3 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (available at King Arthur and Trader Joe's)
    • 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
    • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
    • ½ cup golden raisins
    • 1½ teaspoons fennel seeds
    • 1¾ cups cool water

    In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and yeast. Stir in the raisins and fennel seeds. Pour in the water and stir until a soft, shaggy dough has formed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place overnight.

    After 12 hours or so, the dough will be bubbly. Lightly flour a work surface. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface and with floured hands, knead it a few times, cover with a clean towel, and let it rest for 15 minutes.

    Lightly grease a clean bowl, form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside for 1-2 hours. The dough is ready for baking when a small indentation remains after you poke it with your finger. If it springs back, it needs more time. The amount of resting time it needs is dependent on the warmth of your kitchen.

    Place a heavy, oven safe dutch oven with a lid such as a Le Crueset onto the center rack of the oven and turn the oven on, bringing it to a temperature of 450 degrees. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the lid off the pot and place the dough into it, giving the pot a shake to even the dough out. With a knife, you can create a few slashes in the top of the dough, about a half-inch deep, for decoration. Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pot and bake for 10-15 minutes longer, so that the bread is a deep, golden brown.

    Remove the pot from the oven and turn the bread out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    Frost-Proof Produce

    I thought it noteworthy that the bundle of herbs and vegetables photographed above were picked out of the garden today - after 3 unwelcome, albeit brief, October snowfalls, several hard frosts, and generally cooler temperatures than normal.

    After the first weird, early October snow, I wrote about running out into the garden and rescuing my tomatillos. I wrongly assumed that besides my Brussels sprouts, everything else left in the garden would wilt and die an unfortunate snowy death. This was true for the tomatoes, of course, but my peppers did not fare any better, almost instantly becoming soggy and strangely translucent. I really blew it by not picking all the peppers sooner.

    However, what has remained and even continued to grow has been bountiful. Pictured above is Lacinato Kale, Curly Parsley, Flat Leaf Parsley, Garden Sage, French Tarragon, English Lavender, Greek Oregano, Thyme and Rosemary. Not pictured are my adorable Brussels Sprouts which I have been routinely slicing off the large stalks and eating with pleasure.

    Very soon I will dry the rosemary, sage, oregano and thyme in my food dehydrator which works like a charm because it seals in the green herbal color while maintaining the plant's strong flavor. As for the parsleys, those are best frozen as I personally don't think they provide much flavor as a dried herb. The kale is currently being blanched and frozen in 1 cup portions to eat throughout the winter.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Braised Buttery Leeks

    Thanks to The Chef, for guestblogging one of my favorite side dishes. He's been making these delicious leeks for me, usually accompanied by a lamb burger, for many years. In fact, I think the first time I ever had leeks was when he made this recipe for me. I loved them instantly. --A Crafty Lass

    Under-appreciated here in the United States, leeks are an elegant yet sturdy member of the onion family that will grow just about anywhere. I had my first taste of leeks in England as the perfect braised accompaniment to a lamb dish and liked the pairing so much that I now rarely make one without the other.

    We grow Blue Solaize Leeks from Seed Savers in our garden, and anticipate increasing our planting for next year. As the perfect soup and braising vegetable, leeks are like money in the bank come harvest time…perhaps the reason why their image used to appear on British one pound coins.

    For 4 servings:
    • 3 large leeks
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1½ cups chicken broth
    • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Trim the root end of the leeks and discard. Cut off the dark green part of leeks, leaving only the white and light green parts behind. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise. Rinse thoroughly.

    In a large skillet or pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and sauté them for about 5 minutes, then add the broth. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan, and allow to cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.

    Remove the leeks and arrange them on a serving platter. Turn the heat up to high and reduce the broth until saucy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the leeks and garnish with the parsley. Serve immediately.

    Adapted from a recipe in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Cider Whiskey Cocktail

    Happy Halloween!

    It's not often (never) that I have gotten a request to create a drink or recipe but last week a good friend of mine, troubled by the current state of economic affairs said to me, "you should do a cocktail blogpost this weekend, I drink whiskey." So, in honor of my stressed-out friend, I present you with the Cider Whiskey Cocktail.

    Generally speaking, I'm not much of a whiskey drinker. My Irish heritage commands I drink it though so occasionally I'll have an Old Fashioned and, come to think of it, it is an essential component in my famous (in my mind anyway) Holiday Egg Nog.

    I wasn't at all sure what sort of cocktail I would come up with but today I found myself making my twice-yearly shopping trip to Trader Joe's to stock up on my favorite items. I have always been fond of their Spiced Apple Cider and instantly wondered how whiskey would be combined with it. I headed home, mixed it up, and drank in the smooth whiskey overtones with apple cider undertones. This is not a sweet drink, and the spices in the cider are subtle. I found it to be both sophisticated and seasonal. Now, I want to try a heated version with a cinnamon stick garnish.

    For one drink:
    • 2 ounces Irish Whiskey
    • 3 ounces Spiced Apple Cider
    • 2 drops Peychaud's Bitters
    • 2 thin slices apple, for garnish

    Fill a low-ball glass with crushed ice. In a cocktail shaker combine the whiskey, cider and bitters. Give it a few good shakes and pour over the ice. Garnish with the apple slices and drink this soothing concoction.

    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Whole Grain Parsnip Cookies with Maple Glaze

    I like to pretend that there is such a thing as a healthy cookie. As if, by consuming an unmentionable amount of oatmeal raisin cookies, I am really just doing my good duty of getting the proper fiber intake for the day. Or (when I am alone so no one can witness it) while eating an entire sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mints, I imagine that chocolate is good for the heart and mint is a natural digestive. Right?

    These pretty parsnip cookies were invented by yours truly because I want to continue the healthy cookie delusion and because I had all the ingredients on hand which I suspect was cookie fate at work. Whole wheat, quinoa, oats...what more do you need? This cookie is on the cakey side of the spectrum, quite tender, but with great texture from the grains.

    I'm a BIG parsnip fan. I think they are an underrated vegetable and a nice change from the more often eaten sweet potato, carrot, or squash. I served them roasted at dinner the other night and all my pals were so pleased with them, I might just do a post about those in the near future as well.

    For 2½ dozen cookies:

    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • ½ teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • ½ cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup cooked quinoa
    • 1 cup rolled oats
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
    • ½ cup buttermilk
    • 1 cup, lightly packed finely grated peeled parsnip
    • Maple Glaze*
    Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

    In the bowl of a mixer, add the butter and brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla.

    In a separate bowl, stir together the flours, quinoa, oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice. With the mixer running on low, alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk until incorporated. Mix in the parsnips.

    Drop the dough in heaping tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake in the center of the oven for 11-13 minutes so that the edges are just golden. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

    *Meanwhile, make the glaze. In a bowl, stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and a ¼ cup of maple syrup until creamy. Set the cookies onto a piece of wax paper and spoon about a teaspoon of glaze onto the center of each cooled cookie. Allow to set, and then store in a tightly covered container for up to 3 days.

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    Simple Chocolate Cake for the 100th Post!

    Back in January when I started this blog, I wasn't sure what to expect or how well I would do with this adventure. Before I even started I realized it would be a pretty big undertaking. I kept telling myself that I cooked, baked and canned all the time; a blog would essentially be taking it a step further by photographing and writing down what I did. So, I just sort of dove in and it has become an integral part of my life. Most of the time I love it, a couple times (okay, more than that) I've resented having to do one more thing on top of work and home life. It causes me stress and happiness and a sense of accomplishment all at once.

    When I have scraped recipe failures into the garbage, felt like I couldn't come up with a single good idea to blog about, or simply have wanted to take a break, I remind myself that I started this in the depths of a Minnesota winter so I could refocus the creativity that I felt like I had lost and have a hobby while the snow and ice and wind swirled around outside.

    Having a blog and realizing that people all over the world look at it on a regular basis is both an odd and giddy feeling. I get to wonder, for example, why people in the Middle East tend to look at my Cornflake Bars pretty regularly (seriously, why?). But really, thanks to all of you who have left me so many kind comments. I appreciate it very much and love knowing that there are so many fellow cooks out there.

    I thought it fitting that for my 100th (!) blog post, I would present you with a celebratory cake. Here's the thing: A chocolate anything is last on my list of desserts that I make or order. I felt, however, that I wanted a chocolate cake in my repertoire that I could bake on the fly without too much fuss. I wanted to develop a cake recipe that was simple and memorable. I didn't want it in the style of a Devil's food cake, but instead imagined it more dense so that a small, lovely slice would suffice.

    I don't like flourless chocolate cake or molten chocolate cake very much but I set various cookbooks on my counter turned to those exact recipes and wondered how I could make something new that would please my picky chocolate cake palate. I fully expected a number of cake disasters but really, it wasn't so bad at all. The top of this cake (which was a happy accident) is the standout: it's flaky, crisp and beautiful while enclosing the rich interior.

    • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 2½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 6 eggs
    • ¾ cup flour
    • 1 tablespoon amaretto

    Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with a piece of parchment and then butter that as well.

    Add the chocolate chips to a glass bowl and set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, not allowing the bowl to touch the water. Whisk occasionally until melted and smooth. Set aside.

    In the bowl of a mixer, add the butter and sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the Amaretto. On low speed, add the flour. Add the melted chocolate and mix until thoroughly combined.

    Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 55-60 minutes. The cake is done when the top of it feels springy when lightly pressed. The cake will have risen dramatically in the oven, but as it cools, it will sink down. Allow it to cool on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Sift a light dusting of powdered sugar over the top.

    The cake will keep for several days and is actually better the day after it is made. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or whipped cream if you like.

    Saturday, October 24, 2009

    Caramelized Balsamic Red Onions

    Sometimes I wonder if I need a separate refrigerator just to hold condiments. In fact, I have posted 18 condiment recipes on this blog alone. I find that if I have an arsenal of condiments on hand, I have a pretty easy time whipping up some good eats. And so, I made space in my fridge to hold a jar of these red onions which are pure sweet and savory goodness.

    This recipe stems from my love of caramelized onions and the amazing depth that they add to so many dishes. They were the perfect compliment to a grilled lamb steak we had for dinner. I also imagine they would be fantastic spooned into a bowl of creamy squash soup or as part of a cheese plate. I may take a stab at making some puff pastry tarts with the onions and some gorgonzola.

    Although it takes a while to make this, the level of effort is quite low. The onions benefit from the low, slow heat and turn amazingly sweet. Please don't use just any old balsamic in this. The vinegar needs to be smooth, without any harshness, to add that final layer of flavor to the jam.

    For about 2 cups:

    • 3 large red onions, peeled, both ends trimmed
    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 tablespoons packed, light brown sugar
    • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
    • 2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar

    Quarter the onions, cutting each quarter into 1/2-inch thick slices.

    In a dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Add the onions and stir to coat with the oil. Cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.

    Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the brown sugar, thyme, salt and cayenne. Stir to coat the onions. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour.

    Remove the thyme stems. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and turn the heat back up to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.

    Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Pack the jam into sterilized, sealable jars, pressing down on the jam with a spoon to remove any air bubbles and store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Crispy Overnight Waffles

    Before I was invited over to Guestblogger Eric's house for brunch, I was completely unaware how delicious a waffle could be. The crisp outer texture was in contrast to the almost melting interior and I knew that I would be ruined for any other waffle from that moment forward. Thanks to Eric for this great post and for sharing this recipe with all of us! --A Crafty Lass

    For his birthday, ten years ago, I got my partner a waffle iron. He is an expert pancake maker, and regularly makes me fluffy buttermilk pancakes. Since I didn’t want this to turn into a gift that was really for me, I told him that I would be the one in charge of the waffles in our life.

    I experimented with many different recipes, finally settling upon a variation from Julee Rosso’s & Sheila Lukins’s “The New Basics.” Their recipe yields a classic buttermilk waffle, which is golden and tangy, and has a touch of whole-wheat flour—a great foil for maple syrup. We ate these, very happily, for years.

    But our waffle lives changed forever when I tried Mark Bittman’s recipe for yeasted overnight waffles in “How to Cook Everything.” These waffles were a revelation: incredibly crispy and feather light. The only downside was that they felt too much like dessert to me because they called for vanilla, white sugar and white flour.

    My current recipe is a hybrid of the two recipes, which makes them light and crispy but still retains some of the earthiness. When autumn arrives I look forward to getting the waffle iron out and making more birthday presents for my man. (And me. Let’s be honest, it was a present for both of us.)

    For 5 or 6 waffles:

    • ½ teaspoon instant yeast
    • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
    • ½ cup wheat flour
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 cups milk
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    • Canola, or other neutral oil for brushing on waffle iron
    • 2 eggs

    Before going to bed, combine the dry ingredients and stir in the milk, then the butter. The mixture will be loose. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in your oven with the oven light on.

    In the morning, brush the waffle iron lightly with oil and preheat it. Separate the eggs and stir the yolks into the batter. Beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Stir them gently into the batter. Do not overmix. It’s okay if there are clouds of whites that are not integrated into the mixture.

    Spread a ladleful or so of batter onto the waffle iron and bake until done. It’s best if you serve them immediately, but if you can’t do that, they’ll keep in the oven for a few minutes.

    Serve with maple syrup. And for heaven’s sake, make sure the syrup is hot.

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Roasted Squash with Pepper Jelly Glaze

    Long ago I saw a recipe in Martha Stewart Living for roasted Delicata squash wedges glazed with hot pepper jelly which intrigued me. I love that name - "Delicata" and I really like the idea of using pepper jelly in unusual ways such as this. I don't have much familiarity with Delicata squash but I was reminded of the recipe when I saw this variety at the store the other day. I searched through all of my Martha clippings but wasn't able to find the recipe so I set out to recreate it anyway.

    Delicata squash is the perfect squash for roasting because its thin skin and soft, sweet potato-like flesh cooks up beautifully. I roasted the wedges on a foil-lined baking sheet because I was concerned that the jelly glaze would make a mess. I am glad I took that precaution because indeed it did.

    The pepper jelly imparts a subtle heat to the squash and the garlic, along with the chive garnish, takes this side dish from being sweet to savory.

    For 8 Servings:
    • 3 pounds of Delicata squash
    • 4 tablespoons hot pepper jelly
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
    Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.

    Cut each squash into 8 wedges, scraping the seeds out with a spoon.

    In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together the jelly, garlic, and butter until melted. Place the squash wedges, skin side down, on the prepared pan and liberally brush the glaze over it. Generously sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place in the center of the oven and roast for 45 minutes.

    Sprinkle with the chives and serve immediately.

    Adapted from a recipe in Martha Stewart Living.

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Spicy Calvados Applesauce

    Applesauce is one of those things that is so simple to make at home that it should be scratched off your grocery list for good. It goes without saying that homemade sauce is far superior to store-bought, particularly because of the complexity created by using different apple varieties, spices and flavors.

    As I detailed in my apple chips post, I find apples and five-spice powder to be a match made in heaven. It works as a mysterious, subtle spice in applesauce also but feel free to substitute cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.

    I love the deluxe addition of the French apple brandy, Calvados. It imparts a richness without any overt alcohol flavor. Calvados is so good in so many things: pork dishes, whipped cream, brushed onto an apple tart, and so on. It's on the spendy side but I find that I use it sparingly so my bottle has lasted for quite a while.

    If you don't want to go through the trouble of canning the applesauce, it can be portioned out into freezer bags or containers and frozen, for up to 6 months.

    For about 5 pints:

    • 8 pounds apples (I used a combination of Haralson, Gala and Prairie Spy)
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 - 1½ cups sugar
    • 1 lemon
    • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
    • Pinch of sea salt
    • 1/3 cup Calvados

    Peel and cut the apples into 2-inch chunks and add them to a large pot. Zest and juice the lemon over the apples.

    Over medium-high heat, add the water and one cup of the sugar to the pot with the apples. Stir frequently until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and mash the apples with a potato masher until the desired consistency is reached. Stir in the five-spice powder, sea salt, and Calvados. Taste, and add up to a half cup more sugar depending on the desired level of sweetness. Stirring frequently to prevent scorching, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a boil. Allow it to boil for one minute, stirring constantly, and then remove from the heat.

    Have five sterilized pint canning jars ready. Fill the jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Run a plastic knife down the center of the jar and around the inside to remove any air bubbles. Process the jars in a lightly boiling water bath canner (about 200 degrees) for 20 minutes. Remove the jars from the water and set aside to cool for 24 hours before storing in a cool, dark location for up to a year.

    For complete sterilization and canning procedures, click here.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Pork, Potato & Tomatillo Stew

    The other morning, the dogs woke me up early. I stumbled downstairs, opened the door to the backyard and stared at snow. Snow on the ground, snow on the trees, snow falling from the sky, but most importantly, snow covering my vegetable garden. This did not make me happy.

    I put on a layered ensemble of mismatched, semi-warm clothing that made me look completely insane and headed outside to save my tomatillos. I pulled as many of them as I could and got about 10 cups worth. Once back inside, I searched through the pantry, fridge and freezer and came up with this stew which I cooked in my slow-cooker. I've made it twice now and I absolutely love it.

    My slow-cooker is the large oval variety and the ingredients for this stew fills it up almost to the top. I cut my piece of pork in half lengthwise and that fit inside the pot perfectly. The first time I made this it was mildly spicy but the second time it was much hotter which tells me that the heat level of my poblanos was all over the place. To control the heat, taste the peppers after roasting them and add more or less seeds and peppers as desired.

    To serve 6-8:

    • 5-6 medium-sized poblano peppers
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1¾ pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of fat
    • 1½ pounds tomatillos, papery husks removed, rinsed, and halved or quartered if large
    • 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch size chunks
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1½ cups chicken broth
    • Grated zest of 1 lime
    • Garnishes: lime wedges, avocado, sour cream

    Broil the peppers, turning often, until blackened on all sides. Place the peppers in a plastic bag and seal. Set aside for 10 minutes. Remove the peppers and peel or scrape the skin off with a knife. Cut the stems off and chop the peppers. Set aside.

    In a slow-cooker, spread the onions in the bottom of the pot. Place the pork on the onions and scatter the potatoes, peppers, garlic, and tomatillos over the top. Sprinkle the cumin, salt and lime zest over the stew. Pour the broth over everything. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

    Remove the pork to a cutting board and with two forks, shred it into bite-sized chunks. Return the pork to the slow-cooker and stir the stew, breaking up the tomatillos with a spoon. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve in bowls garnished with lime wedges, avocados and sour cream.

    Saturday, October 10, 2009

    Chai Tea Concentrate

    Nothing irks me more lately than forking over $4 at the coffee shop for a Chai Tea Latte that requires the minuscule effort of pouring refrigerated chai concentrate into a cup and topping it with frothy milk. Seeing that I'm the fool that pays the $4 on a regular basis, I decided to revolt!

    Luckily, making my own concentrate turned out to be an easy and even desirable task because boiling and steeping the tea perfumed my whole house with its warm spiciness. There is a lot of room for improvisation with this and I can see playing up certain notes depending on personal preference. Same goes for the sweetener - just remember that this recipe is for a concentrate so the flavors need to be strong.

    I really love star anise and I discovered a cost-saving tip regarding this pretty spice. If you go to the grocery store and buy star anise you will pay a ridiculous amount. However, if you have access to an Asian grocer, they sell star anise on the cheap albeit in large quantities. It will force you to think up new ways to use it which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The same goes for cinnamon sticks...head to a Mexican grocer and stock up for far less than you would pay elsewhere.

    If a frother doesn't exist in your kitchen, this problem can be easily remedied by heading to IKEA and throwing down a mere two bucks for this. Frothy milk really does complete the homemade Chai Tea Latte experience.

    For about 3 cups of concentrate:

    • 3½ cups water
    • ½ cup agave nectar or honey
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 star anise
    • ¼ teaspoon anise seeds
    • 8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
    • 8 whole cloves
    • 2 cinnamon sticks
    • 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced (there's no need to peel it)
    • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
    • 4 bags Darjeeling tea

    Combine all the ingredients except the tea in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to strongly simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Add the teabags, cover the pan again, and steep for 20 minutes more.

    Strain the concentrate into a sealable container and store in the refrigerator for about a week.

    To make a latte:

    Stir together 1 cup milk to ½ cup concentrate (more or less to taste) and heat in a saucepan or in the microwave. Use a frother to whip up the milk and serve.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Pasta with Kale, Sausage & Cream

    The cool October weather has no effect on my Lacinato Kale plants. This is the first year we've grown Kale and I am officially a convert. Besides the fact that kale is so healthy to eat, it is a beautiful plant: deep blue green and almost prehistoric looking. The plants are about 4-feet tall now and I have plans in the near future to blanch and freeze all the leaves so I can eat it throughout the winter months.

    You may be suspicious at how much kale 6 large leaves actually looks like but have no fear for it cooks down quite a bit. The bitterness of the kale along with the spicy sausage and the sweetness of the cream makes for a satisfying and indulgent fall dinner.

    I normally don't give wine suggestions but the wine we drank with this pasta was so right on, it deserves to be passed on to you. It was a 2007 di Lenardo Vineyards Pinot Bianco which retailed for around $14. It cut right through the cream and spiciness and delivered clear, refreshing notes of fruit while still being quite crisp.

    To serve 4-6:

    • 1 pound pasta
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3 hot Italian sausages, removed from casing (about 3/4 of a pound)
    • 6 large leaves Lacinato Kale, center ribs discarded
    • 1 cup dry white wine
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil, chopped
    • Parmesan Cheese, for garnishing

    Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook according to the package directions, reserving half a cup of pasta water before the pasta is drained.

    While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and when hot, add the garlic. Stir for 30 seconds then add the sausage and break up the meat as it is being cooked. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

    While the sausage is cooking, roughly chop the kale into large, bite-sized pieces. Add it to the pan with the sausage in batches, stirring frequently, adding additional kale as it cooks down. When all the kale is incorporated, cook the mixture for about 3-4 minutes more.

    Add the wine and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the liquid is reduced by half. Turn the heat down to medium, add the cream and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in the basil and season to taste with kosher salt.

    Toss the pasta with the sausage mixture and reserved pasta water, if needed. Spoon the pasta into bowls and garnish with slices of shaved Parmesan.

    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Cider Mustard

    When I started this blog earlier this year, I did a post for Guinness Mustard that originated from Saveur Magazine. Not only was I enthusiastic about making my own mustard, but the friends I gave it to were asking for more which is always a clear indicator of success.

    This version is a seasonal spin on the original recipe, incorporating Hard Cider (which I love this time of year), cider vinegar, a hint of honey and a little extra cinnamon to play up the apple undertones. A turkey, apple, and white cheddar sandwich spread with this mustard couldn't be more tasty.

    Making mustard is a simple task and since I'm such a big proponent of all things homemade, I want to get in the habit of whipping up batches of it more often. It lasts for 6 months in the fridge and I store it in either 4-ounce or 8-ounce canning jars.
    For about 31⁄2 cups:
    • 1 12-oz. bottle hard cider such as Woodchuck
    • 1 cup brown mustard seeds
    • 1⁄2 cup yellow mustard seeds
    • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 teaspoons honey
    • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
    Whisk together all the ingredients in a large glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for a day or so.

    Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and blend very thoroughly for several minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl a couple times as you blend. The mixture will thicken and emulsify.

    Spoon the mustard into several clean jars and refrigerate.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    Green Curry Zucchini Bisque

    Oh look. Another zucchini recipe. At this rate I will be carving zucchini-o'lanterns in a few weeks.

    As unenthusiastic as I was while making this, I can say with sincerity that it actually was very good - probably because the zucchini acts as an almost secret background ingredient to the bold lime, curry and coconut flavors. I threw in a potato to add body and I suspect that the bisque's creamy texture is due in part to this addition.

    Curry pastes and sometimes fish sauce can vary in their strength so start on the low-end of the amounts I suggested and work up from there depending on your preference. I personally added 4 tablespoons of fish sauce and 6 teaspoons of curry paste.

    I spooned some Jasmine rice in which soaked up the coconut creaminess perfectly. Thin rice noodles would also be a welcome addition.

    For 4-6 servings:

    • 3 tablespoons canola oil
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
    • 5 cups cubed zucchini (about 2 medium or 1 annoyingly large one)
    • 1½ cups vegetable stock
    • 1 can light coconut milk
    • 3-6 teaspoons green curry paste
    • 3-4 tablespoons fish sauce
    • The juice of 1 small lime
    • Steamed jasmine rice, for serving

    Heat the oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the potato and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the zucchini and cook for another minute. Add the stock and bring to a strong simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

    Puree the mixture with an immersion blender or transfer it in stages to a blender. Blend until very smooth. Return the zucchini puree to the pot.

    Over medium heat, stir the coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, and lime juice into the puree. Bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and add more curry paste or fish sauce if desired. Simmer for 5 minutes more. Serve with the steamed rice.

    Monday, September 28, 2009

    Apple Zucchini Bread with Almond Struesel

    Since my zucchini plant just won't die, I am dutifully (still) using it up in any way I can. I am soooo over summer, eager instead for the foods of fall. Currently I am in deep apple love and eat them constantly. There is nothing more satisfying than biting into a perfect Honeycrisp apple.

    But I digress, for there are 6 zucchini in my refrigerator right now. I foresee a few last gasp zucchini recipes in the next week or so but what better way to get rid of them then to combine them with apples. Apple and zucchini both benefit from spice, both bake up beautifully, and both add moisture to baked goods. I tested this by combining them in this quick bread. It worked.

    Topped with a cinnamon-sugar-almond struesel, this bread is not only delicious, but quite pretty too. This recipe makes a large 9x5-inch loaf but feel free to split the batter amongst two smaller pans or even adapt it to make muffins. Bake just until a knife comes out clean from the center.

    For one large loaf:
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
    • 1 apple, peeled and diced (I used Braeburn)
    • 1 cup finely shredded zucchini, lightly squeezed dry
    For Almond Struesel:
    • 4 tablespoons sliced almonds
    • 4 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 tablespoon flour
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
    Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, spices, salt and brown sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and melted butter. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the dry mixture until just moistened. Fold in the apple and zucchini.

    Butter a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

    To make the struesel: in a small bowl, stir together the almonds, sugar, flour and cinnamon. With your fingers work the butter into the mixture. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.

    Place the pan into the center of the oven and bake for 60 - 70 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely or serve warm.

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Braised Lamb Shanks with Tomatillos, Peppers & Olives

    Sometimes it sucks being married to a chef - the hours are long, we don't have a lot of the same days off, and I can often feel him judging me as I slowly and wrongly chop an onion.

    But then, there are the good things about the profession, like coming home from work on a Tuesday and having the dinner pictured above waiting for me. It looked spectacularly rustic, fancy enough for guests but was also an inexpensive one-pot meal. Lamb shanks are one of those cuts of meat that are much less costly than their rack and chop counterparts. For two large shanks, it cost about $6.

    Our garden is flush with tomatillos and peppers right now so it was great being able to use some up in this dish. We served this over steamed quinoa and it was perfect.

    For two servings:

    • 2 lamb shanks
    • 1 tablespoon canola oil
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 3-4 mild peppers such as Anaheim or Poblano, stemmed and sliced
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 2 cups chopped tomatillos
    • 10 green olives
    • ½ cup chicken stock
    • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
    • 1½ cups cooked quinoa for serving

    Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Generously season the lamb with salt and pepper. Put the lamb in a heavy, dutch oven, such as a Le Crueset and place in the oven. Turn the lamb every few minutes in order to brown it on all sides. Remove from the oven and transfer the lamb to a plate. Set aside.

    In the same dutch oven, add the 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions for 5 minutes, then add the peppers and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes more. Add the tomatillos and olives and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, thyme and lamb to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 1½ hours until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.

    Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over the quinoa.

    Adapted from a recipe in How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman