Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Joe Beef's Lentils Like Baked Beans

I can't believe it has taken me this long to write up a post about Joe Beef's lentils! Joe Beef is an incredible (world class, really) restaurant in Montreal in which my husband and I have been lucky to dine a few times, and once I realized there was a Joe Beef cookbook a few years ago, I immediately got my hands on it. Of course most of the dishes in the book I leave to the experts in the JB kitchen to tangle with, but the recipe for lentils like baked beans has become a mainstay in my rotation. In the summer, it's one of my go-to dishes for any and all cookouts, backyard parties, potlucks; in winter, it's one of our favorite comfort foods. The lil' legumes are absolutely delicious, boasting big notes of mustard, maple, and cider vinegar, and when you top a heaping ladleful with a fried egg you've got a masterful breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I tweaked the recipe in the cookbook to fit my palate; for example, they had listed two TABLESPOONS of powdered Coleman's mustard, which I have tried and think is just...way too much... but feel free to add more or less of any ingredient to suit your personal tastes!



Joe Beef's Lentils Like Baked Beans
Makes 4 entree-size servings

*3 slices good bacon, diced
*1 small onion, finely diced
*4 cloves garlic, minced
*2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
*4 cups water
*Heaping 1/4 cup ketchup
*1/4 cup maple syrup
*1 tablespoon sweet BBQ sauce (I use a maple BBQ sauce, naturally)
*1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
*1 tablespoon dry mustard (Coleman's)
*1 heaping teaspoon freshly ground pepper
*1 bay leaf
*Salt, to taste

Heat the oven to 350. In a dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium until it's nearing crispness, then add the onions and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more, then stir in everything else besides the salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and place in the oven. Bake 45-60 minutes (until the lentils are tender - timing depends a lot on their age). Taste for seasoning and then serve hot, ideally topped with an egg.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Meatball Cookies

My noted culinary genius pal Michael G has been baking up hordes of holiday cookies lately and out of all the goodies these "meatball" cookies most captured my attention, so after I secured the recipe I immediately set out to bake a batch. They were just as delicious as they looked, and I'm thrilled to have them in my cookie repertoire now. The scintillating spices mixed with notes of coffee, cocoa and orange conjure up a particularity warm and enveloping Christmas spirit, especially when they're paired with a mug of holiday blend coffee on a chilled December Sunday evening. May you enjoy them just as much as I do!


Meatball Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies

Recipe adapted from my friend Michael G

*2 cups flour
*3/4 cup sugar
*1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
*1 tablespoon instant espresso
*1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
*1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon cloves
*1/4 teaspoon allspice
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*2 teaspoons baking powder
*6 tablespoons unsalted butter
*1/2 cup milk
*1 egg
*Scant 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
*1/4 teaspoon orange extract
*1/2 teaspoon orange zest
*1/2 cup broken walnuts

Heat the oven to 375. Add the flour, sugar, cocoa, espresso, spices, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and blend well. Grate in the butter and work with your fingers until a crumbly mixture is achieved.

Make a well in the center and add the milk, egg, extracts, zest and walnuts.  Stir with a large wooden spoon to combine until the dough is sticky and damp. Cover the dough and refrigerate for a few hours.

Scoop by the teaspoonful and shape into balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10-11 minutes or until they are done. Let cool completely before glazing with a mix of hot milk, confectioners sugar and flavoring (I have flavored it with spiced rum or cocoa).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Spinach & Persimmon Salad with Prosciutto, Pistachios & Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Persimmons are my favorite late-fall fruit followed closely by pomegranates, and I love to throw the two together whenever I can, which leads to a great many fruity salads around this time of year. This is probably my preferred iteration though, because persimmon wedges and swatches of prosciutto make for a heavenly pairing. It looks so festive, too - this salad was actually my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner, and it looked quite nice mixed with with the spread if I may say so! Can't please everyone though; my husband likens persimmons to tomatoes injected with watermelon juice, and no, he doesn't mean that in a good way. More for the 'simmon lovers to enjoy!


Spinach & Persimmon Salad with Prosciutto, Pistachios & Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Makes 4-6 servings

*1/4 cup pomegranate juice
*1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
*1/3 cup fruity EVOO
*1 squeeze honey
*1 dollop (about 1/2 teaspoon) Dijon mustard
*1 small clove garlic, minced
*S&P
*6 cups baby spinach, washed and dried
*2 very ripe persimmons, sliced (I prefer the flatter, squat variety)
*4 slices of prosciutto, ribboned
*1/4 cup pomegranate arils
*1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
*1/4 cup pistachios, lightly toasted and chopped

In a small mason jar, combine the first 7 ingredients to make the vinaigrette. Shake the jar vigorously until everything is well incorporated, and taste for seasoning. Prepare the salad with the rest of the ingredients and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sage Chicken & Sausage Bake

When your hands smell of onions and sage, you know you're making something autumnally appropriate! Adapted (barely, if I'm being honest) from Nigella Lawson, this recipe is perfectly simple and delicious late fall comfort food...and hearty enough to ease you into an early hibernation. I usually just opt for thighs when I throw this together but you can use any chicken pieces you desire - just keep track of baking times. When paired with roasted potatoes, a crisp salad and peppery saison, you couldn't ask for a better November weeknight dinner.  


Sage Chicken & Sausage Bake
Serves 3-4

*1 onion, peeled and cut into wedges
*3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
*1 tablespoon EVOO
*1 teaspoon of your favorite mustard - my standard is a wild mushroom mustard
*1 heaping teaspoon dried sage
*1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
*Juice of half a lemon
*4 chicken thighs, extra skin and fat trimmed
*3-4 hot or sweet Italian sausages, your choice
*Handful of fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped

Throw everything but the sausages into a Ziploc bag with a good grinding of fresh pepper and a couple pinches of salt. I cut the spent lemon half in a few pieces and throw that in too.  Toss the bag around, squelching everything together to mix all the ingredients evenly across the chicken. Leave to marinade in the refrigerator a couple of hours (or overnight), squelching and turning the chicken around in the bag every so often.
Take the chicken out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you're going to bake, and toss the sausages and some sage leaves in the bag as well, squelching everything around again. Heat the oven to 425.

Arrange the chicken and sausage as well as some of the onion quarters all in a roasting pan. Sprinkle the rest of the fresh sage leaves over the chicken and sausages (I usually tuck one under each flap of thigh skin, too) and then put into the oven to cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the thighs are done. Turn the sausages about halfway through to brown on both sides.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Warm Roasted Cauliflower Salad With Bagna Cauda Dressing

If it were socially acceptable to bathe in bagna cĂ uda (which, incidentally, means "hot bath" in an Italian dialect), then I'd be splashing around in it right now. Anchovies, garlic and olive oil - was there ever a better trifecta? In the past I've made it as a dip for crudites or crusty bread, but it struck me that it would be excellent on roasted cauliflower because more than most vegetables, cauliflower demands to be paired with rich umaminess. I got the idea of making a whole salad of the affair by cruising around on Epicurious; this recipe was helpful in getting my thoughts together. Even if you aren't the biggest fan of anchovies I still heartily suggest giving this a try - it's less specifically fishy and more just...decadently savory. Especially as we're edging into seriously cold weather now, this will be a repeat visitor to the table.



Warm Roasted Cauliflower Salad With Bagna Cauda Dressing
Makes 4 entree salad size servings or serves 6 as a side

*1 sizable head cauliflower
*1/2 head radicchio, cored and ribboned
*1 small shallot, sliced very thin
*Handful chopped parsley
*1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
*Endive leaves, for garnish (and for dipping extra bagna cauda sauce)
*Scant 1/4 cup good olive oil
*8-9 anchovy fillets, minced
*3 fat cloves garlic, minced
*S&P

Heat the oven to 400. Cut the cauliflower into bite size florets and arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with evoo and season with S&P then toss lightly so the florets are all well oiled. Roast about 30-35 minutes, or until the tops are starting to brown, stirring once midway. Meanwhile, make the bagna cauda by heating the oil over medium-low and adding in the anchovies and garlic. Cook both in the oil for about 10 minutes without burning the garlic. Keep warm. When the cauliflower is tender, then it take out of the oven and toss in a big bowl with the radicchio, parsley, chopped shallot, and some of the warm dressing. Arrange on a plate with some endive leaves for garnish, add a little extra dressing and smatter some chopped hazelnuts around. Use up any leftover bagna cauda up by dipping crusty bread slices or endive leaves into it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Spicy Stuffed Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

As odd as it is to admit, I actually prefer the flavor of doctored-up turkey burgers to plain ground-beef burgers. It's the sort of minority opinion that would make Parks & Rec's Chris Traeger proud. This particular iteration of a turkey burger might be my favorite - combine the oozy cheese stuffing, piquant bite of the spicy seasonings and the creamy heat of the mayo, and it is an absolutely delicious winner. Plus, it might still be somewhat healthier than a beef burger...? At least that's what the modest pile of roasted carrot fries on the side is telling me...

That rooster is *not* pleased that I made a patty out of his fowl brethren 

Spicy Stuffed Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Mayo
Makes 4 burgers

*1 lb ground turkey (the best ground turkey I've found locally is from Lindenhof Farm, which frequently sends envoys to the West Chester Growers Market)
*1 small shallot, finely minced or grated
*2 pressed or very finely minced garlic cloves
*1 habanero pepper, minced finely (wear gloves!)
*1/2 teaspoon cumin
*1/2 teaspoon oregano
*1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
*S&P
*1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced, plus 1 tablespoon of adobo sauce
*3 tablespoons mayonnaise
*3-4 heaping tablespoons finely grated habanero cheddar (or a nice smoked gouda)
*Hamburger buns of your choice
*High smoke-point oil


In a bowl, gently combine the turkey meat, shallot, garlic, seasonings and pinches of salt and pepper. Shape into 8 thin patties, deposit a heaping tablespoon of grated cheese into the center of half the patties, and then carefully crimp two patties together to have 4 in total. Crack some more pepper + a sprinkle of salt over them as they sit. Heat a cast iron pan a touch north of medium heat and add a good slick of high smoke point oil. Once the oil is hot, lay the burgers in and cook undisturbed approximately 5 minutes per side. Meanwhile, combine the chipotle, adobo, and mayonnaise. With one minute left, toast the buns lightly, brush one side of each with some mayo, and then assemble the burgers with any other fixings you desire.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Butternut Squash Soup

Summer kicked it a couple weeks ago, but I feel like it's only officially autumn now on this particular mid-October Sunday afternoon, as vermillion leaves rustle in the chilled breeze outside my window, the sunbeans grow long, and the kitchen smells like roasting squash. The inaugural butternut soup of the season always reminds me that I've given in and accepted that it's finally fall, probably because the soup is about the most ubiquitous autumnal dish there is - besides Thanksgiving turkey, I suppose. I really love it though, and prefer simple preparations that let that good earthy gourd flavor and inherent creaminess shine; a pet peeve is squash soup flavored like a pumpkin pie so I nix any sweetness and limit the woodsy festive spices to what's in my garam masala. How do you prefer your butternut squash soup?



Butternut Squash Soup
Makes 4 servings

Adapted from my friend Marisa's anecdotal butternut recipe

*EVOO
*1 ~3lb squash
*1 cup water
*3 cups vegetable stock
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*1 small white potato
*1/2 tsp garam masala
*1/2 tsp curry powder
*1 pinch red pepper flakes
*S&P

Heat the oven to 450. Cut the squash in two, scoop out the guts, and brush the cut side with olive oil. Place on a foil lined baking sheet, cut side down, and roast for 40 minutes or until totally cooked through. Meanwhile, dice the potato and saute in a bit of oil for 5-6 minutes, adding the garlic in after a few. Add the spices and pepper flakes. Pour in the water and broth and simmer until the squash has fully roasted, then scoop out the squashflesh and add it to to pot. Make sure everything is soft, then puree and season with salt and pepper. Press the soup through a sieve to achieve ultimate silky-smoothness. Garnish with a little cream or yogurt (I mixed a little Greek yogurt with adobo sauce from a can of Chipotles for this particular garnish).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Shells with Chickpeas, Sausage & Kale

Today I'm setting out a quick, simple and tasty pasta dish, the type I usually turn to on oh, say, the Monday night before payday. It's a little more gussied up than some other cucina povera classics on rotation in my kitchen, but you can easily nix the sausage if you don't have any on hand or don't eat meat, just up the amount of the kale & chickpeas and it'll still be a very satisfying bowl of comfort food. Feel free to sub orecchiette for the shells; I've made it with both and each form the most delightful little nooks for the chickpeas and other little goodies to nestle.



Shells with Chickpeas, Sausage & Kale
Makes 3 servings

*1/3-1/2 lb shells (De Cecco is always my preferred pasta)
*EVOO
*2 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
*Good handful of chopped onion
*1 anchovy fillet, minced (optional)
*3 cloves garlic, 1 sliced, 2 minced
*3-4 kale leaves sans rib, ribboned
*Pinch red pepper flakes
*Glug of white wine (about ¼ cup)
*1 cup chickpeas, drained & rinsed
*S&P
*Pinch of chopped fresh thyme leaves
*Grated Parm

Put a pot of well salted water on to boil for the pasta. Saute the sausage in a wide pan with a little olive oil until nicely browned and cooked through, then remove and set aside. Add a touch more oil and saute the onion for a couple minutes, then throw in the anchovy if you please, and let it mmmmelt into the oil. Add the garlic then after about a minute add the kale and saute for a couple more minutes. Splash in the wine and once the alcohol whiff burns off, add the chickpeas and sausage. Set to low, season, and then add the drained pasta to the pan, tossing with a little reserved pasta water if it's dry. Dust servings with freshly-grated parm and thyme leaves.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Chicken With Coconut-Lime Sauce, Carrot Puree & Jasmine Rice

If you grow carrots, you know the exquisite, vaguely macabre feeling of pulling them up from the soil. Such was my recent experience when I was invited to take some carrots from my friend's garden. It's gross to say, but even though I enjoyed pulling out the carrots, holding them made me think of a painted Salome admiring John The Baptist's head brandished by a grasped hank of hair. It IS October, I guess this is apropos talk. Maybe it was because the tops were so grand and bushy...

Anyway!

I had a bunch of these knobby roots to use and decided to make a puree out of them, on which to lay some chicken, rice, and wee babe carrots. Lime-coconut sauce went over top and around. It was delish and branched the summer-fall divide really well! I took a lot of inspiration from this recipe I found online; I've made it with both chicken and fish and I ultimately prefer it with the chicken - but it is tasty either way.

I realize in retrospect I probably should have added something...not orange...to the plate!

Chicken With Carrots, Coconut-Lime Sauce, Carrot Puree & Jasmine Rice
Makes 2 servings

*EVOO
*2 boneless chicken breasts with skin
*1 bunch organic carrots, ideally with some teensy little carrots included
*1 knob of ginger, about the size of a thumbprint, chopped
*1 small onion, diced
*2 cloves garlic, chopped
*2 cups vegetable broth, divided
*2 tablespoons butter, divided
*Juice of 2 limes
*1/4 cup dry white wine
*1/2 cup coconut milk
*1/2 teaspoon of a citrus-flavored hot sauce (I use a fatalii sauce)
*S&P
*1 cup cooked jasmine rice (cook with some rice vinegar added to the water)

If the rice hasn't been cooked yet, start with that. I highly recommend adding some rice vinegar to the cooking water, gives a nice added dimension of flavor to the starch. Then, in a pot, saute the onion in some evoo until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and saute a few minutes more. Chop 5-6 carrots and add to the pot along with a cup of stock. Season with pinches of S&P and cover. Simmer until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes, then puree with an immersion blender or in a processor (carefully!). Melt a little bit of butter into the puree, check for seasoning and keep warm.

Meanwhile, pick the smallest carrots (or shave some down with the peeler) and put in a small pot with the other cup of stock, plus some excess coconut milk (maybe 1/4 cup), S&P, a tiny nub of ginger and a smashed garlic clove. Simmer until tender. This is an optional step, by the way, but I really like having some extra carrots on the plate!

Season the chicken breasts with S&P and in a skillet over medium high, heat some canola or olive oil, then pan-fry the breasts, starting skin-down and flipping after 5-6 minutes. If you have cutlets (or are using fish) you can fry them entirely on the stovetop; with larger breasts I prefer to pop them in a preheated oven to finish cooking for about 10-15 minutes after crisping the skin.

Make the sauce by reducing in a small saucepan the wine and lime juice by half over medium heat, then adding in the coconut milk and hot sauce. Simmer until sauce has thickened, then remove from heat and stir in the butter.

Assemble the dish by putting some puree on the plate, then heap some rice on top and arrange some carrots around. Top with the chicken and spoon over sauce. Finish with some fresh cracked pepper and some sea salt.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Paw Paw Ice Cream

Anyone out there a fellow fan of the paw paw? I'd wanted to try one ever since hearing of a "paw paw" in Baloo's jaunty song from The Jungle Book and I am eternally grateful to a rural DE pal who has been furnishing me with an allotment of paw paws around this time of year from stock growing wild on his property ever since he heard of my fascination. They're quite delicious, mild, sweet and creamy like a ripe banana, but with a decidedly tropical tang in the mix. They also have big oblong seeds, which make extracting the fruit pulp a little unwieldy, but are fun to use in all sorts of crafty business. For the past couple years I've been using my paw paws in a personal recipe for ice cream since it's a very easy and tasty preparation for the amount I get (usually around 4-5). They spoil very rapidly so I usually make the base the day before I know I'm going to get them. I do always feel slightly bad when I post a recipe featuring a highly elusive or specialized ingredient, but if you live east of the Mississippi, and are into foraging, go looking for some paw paws! The hunt will make them all the sweeter.

If you have cooked with paw paws before, please share your recipes so I can branch out next September!



Paw Paw Ice Cream
Makes about a pint

*3/4 cup paw paw pulp, pureed (from about 4 paw paws)
*1 cup heavy cream, divided
*1/3 cup whole milk
*1/3 cup vanilla sugar (sugar left to sit in a jar with a spent vanilla pod)
*A pinch of salt
*3 large egg yolks, whisked
*Juice of half a small lime, about 1 1/2 teaspoons 

Set up half the cream in a bowl within an ice bath to thoroughly chill it. Warm the other half of the cream and the milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan with a pinch of salt and the sugar until steaming, stirring to dissolve. Carefully temper the yolks with some of the hot milk before adding the eggy mix back to the saucepan. Cook over medium until the liquid thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. At that point, pour the custard through a strainer and into the chilled cream. Stir well and pop in the fridge for at least 5-6 hours, preferably overnight. When you're ready to make the ice cream, extract the pulp from the paw paws and puree, stir in the lime juice, then combine with the custard and freeze in the ice cream maker. Eat soft-serve when it's done, or put it into a proper container to let it ripen in the freezer.