Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tomato & Bulgur Soup

One of my favorite grains, bulgur, quite often works its way into soups to beef 'em up this time of year. This winter, I've gravitated to this very simple and hearty tomato and bulgur soup that I adapted from a NY Times recipe, and have taken a quart jar filled with it into work for almost a week's worth of lunches on a few occasions. Not only is it better the next day, or the day after that, but it's filling and satisfying without being heavy. It also absorbs additions marvelously: one day I may bring in some chickpeas pilfered from the previous night's chana masala, or a quarter-cup of cooked, crumbled Italian sausage, or some leftover pesto. Practically anything stirs in and mingles well with the tomato soup. As is, it's wonderful; at first sip it may taste *too* simple but you soon find that you can't stop eating it. It's a good'un.

Tomato & Bulgur Soup
Makes 6 servings

Adapted from the NY Times

*1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes in juice
*1 small red onion, finely chopped
*4 cloves garlic, minced
*2 tablespoons tomato paste
*1 healthy pinch red pepper flakes
*1 pinch sugar
*1/2 cup coarse bulgur
*4 cups water 
*Squeeze of fresh lemon juice per serving
*Chopped fresh mint, to garnish
*Crumbled feta, to garnish

Pulse the tomatoes to a coarse puree in a food processor and set aside. Heat the oil in a pot over medium-low and add the onions with a good pinch of salt. Saute 5-6 minutes, then add the garlic and pepper flakes, and cook about another minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar and bring to a strong simmer. Cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly. Add the bulgur and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, season with pinches of salt & pepper and cover partially. Simmer for about 45 minutes, check for seasoning, then ladle the soup into bowls with squeezes of lemon and sprinkle with mint and feta. 

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
*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 càuda (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

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
*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

*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

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)
*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
*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...


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

*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)
*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.   

Monday, September 8, 2014

Smoky Roasted Corn Soup

On our way back from the shore this past weekend we heeded the siren call of one of NJ's numerous roadside farmstands to stock up on bags of fresh sweet corn and some plump tomatoes, taking full advantage of the Garden State's bounty in an effort to make the most out of the waning days of fresh summer produce. Also, to mitigate the effects of the boardwalk fare we'd scarfed non-stop during our trip. I had my mind's eye firmly fixed on a recipe that David Lebovitz had posted a while ago for corn soup, so almost immediately upon return home I got straight to making a batch of it. I tweaked it a lot as I am wont to do, and am thoroughly pleased with the final result. I'm sure I'll be making it at least once or twice again before corn season ends. I don't want to think about those dark upcoming days...

Smoky Roasted Corn Soup
Makes 4 servings

Adapted from David Lebovitz

*4 ears corn, shucked
*1 small poblano chili, seeded and diced
*3 1/2 cups water
*1 bay leaf
*1-2 thickly cut slices of good bacon, diced small
*1/2 small onion, diced finely
*2 fat cloves of garlic, minced
*Smoked paprika, to taste
*1/2 teaspoon Chipotle Tabasco
*1/4 cup heavy cream
*Sliced scallions and basil leaves, for garnish

Heat the oven to 375. Put the water in a pot on medium. Spread the diced chili pieces on a large baking sheet, then slice the kernels of corn off the cobs over the sheet so that it'll catch the kernels as they fall. Drizzle the kernels and chili bits with a good glug or two of EVOO, smatter with salt and pepper, toss well, and set in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, stirring a couple times during cooktime. Chop the cobs into pieces and put in the pot with the water, a bay leaf, and a sprinkle of salt. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat to med-low and cover. Simmer for the duration of the corn roasting time.

Meanwhile in another pot, fry the bacon until crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon. Saute the onion for a few minutes in the fat, then add the garlic and a sprinkle of salt and continue to saute for another minute. When the corn mix is done, add to the pot with the onions and garlic, then strain the cob-water into the pot as well. Add a dash or two of paprika and the chipotle Tabasco; taste for seasoning. After it simmers for a bit, pour in the cream and once again taste for seasoning. With an immersion blender, blitz the soup just a few times to add more body to it, then let it simmer for a good 30 minutes or pop in the fridge to be heated up the following day. It's crack when fresh, but even more addictive when given time to let the flavors carouse around together.  When you're ready to serve, garnish each bowl with basil leaves and sliced scallions.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mapo Tofu

This dish consisting of slippery cubes of bean curd in a rich scarlet sauce is an instantly recognizable Sichuanese classic. It's always a standout at my beloved Han Dynasty's monthly epic tasting dinners, and after attending the last one I consulted my Sichuan bible, Fuschia Dunlop's Land of Plenty, for a good recipe so I could satisfy the mapo tofu craving whenever it arose. The recipe is remarkably straightforward if you, like I, have collected a couple key ingredients - which is totally worth your time and investment to do if you like cooking this cuisine. I'm still scraping at the dregs of the giant jar of Pixian doubanjiang (authentic-as-it-gets Sichuan chili bean paste) my husband gifted me with two years ago (!), and will be instantly re-ordering when I finally run out. It lends its indelible fire and funk to not just this delicious mapo tofu, but to many other Sichuan dishes as well. I'm very happy to always have some on hand so that now, armed with this fantastic recipe, I can whip up a batch of mapo whenever the craving hits.

Ma Po Tofu
Makes 3 servings

Adapted from Fuschia Dunlop's Land of Plenty 

*1 block tofu (12 oz to a pound), cubed
*Scant 1/2 cup peanut oil
*A couple ounces of ground pork
*1/4 cup chili bean paste
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1 small nub of ginger, minced
*1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed
*1 cup chicken stock
*1 teaspoon sugar
*1 teaspoon finely ground roasted Sichuan peppercorns
*4 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 6 teaspoons cold water
*Light soy sauce
*3 scallions, 2 sliced in larger diagonal pieces and the final sliced thinly for garnish
*Sesame seeds for garnish

Put the tofu cubes in gently simmering salted water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Pour the peanut oil in a wok over medium-high heat and when it is nearly smoking, throw in the pork. Using a wooden spoon, break it up into small pieces and stir-fry for about 5 minutes or until the pork is beginning to brown and crisp. Reduce heat to medium and add the chili bean paste; stir fry for about 20 seconds before adding the beans, garlic and ginger. Continue cooking for another 20-30 seconds before pouring in the stock. Sprinkle in the sugar and peppercorns, and season with soy sauce (I use less than a teaspoon). Gently drain the tofu and add the cubes to the mix, stirring carefully to not break them up too much. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring every now and again. Throw the larger pieces of scallion in about half-way through.

To thicken the sauce, add the cornstarch slurry a teaspoon at a time and mix well after each addition - only use as much as you need to thicken it to your desired consistency. Serve garnished with thinly sliced scallion and a spangle of sesame seeds, with rice.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


It's fun to learn what other people keep as mainstays in their kitchen. You think you know a person, only to find out that they are opening tins of "kipper snacks" and getting to the bottom of tubs of goats' milk yogurt on the regular. Such was my experience when I agreed to house/pet sit for a good friend of mine; she left me a panoply of groceries and a note encouraging me to take anything in the pantry or fridge that I wanted, so I of course had to take stock. In the pantry were a couple boxes of aforementioned kipper snacks and in the fridge, a half-empty carton of goats' milk yogurt plus another, unopened. I was fascinated and delighted. Eyeballing the kippers, I thought to use them in a batch of kedgeree, a Brit-Indian dish of spiced rice, eggs and smoked fish first brought to my attention at the superlative Lawrence in Montreal. I decided that the dish could use a little tang, so I stirred in some of the goats' milk yogurt as well - it turned out to be fabulous. Every spoonful yielded tasty fish fragments, greenery, voluptuous egg, warming spices and toothsome rice. I loved it. I think I'll be stacking kipper snacks in my pantry from now on, too. Maybe leave the goats' milk yogurt to my friend, though.

Makes 2-4 servings

*1 organic egg per intended serving
*2 1/2 cups leftover cooked basmati rice (Cooked with a shard of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, a couple crushed cardamom pods, and a clove, ideally!)
*1 tablespoon ghee or butter
*1 small onion, somewhere between diced and minced
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
*1/2 teaspoon turmeric
*1 teaspoon cumin
*1/4 teaspoon coriander
*1 tin smoked kipper fillets (or smoked haddock, or another smoked fish), flaked, pin bones removed
*Good handful chopped parsley and cilantro
*1 heaping spoonful Greek or goat yogurt       

Bring a pot of water to a boil and soft-boil the egg(s). Meanwhile, in a wide skillet, melt the ghee over medium-low and saute the onion until soft, then add the garlic. Sprinkle in the spices and let bloom before adding in the rice and fish. Cook a few minutes on low to heat everything up, while you remove the soft-boiled egg. Run it under cold water and peel gently. Stir in the herbs and yogurt, season to taste, dish out and fleck each serving with quartered or chopped soft-boiled egg.

For the record, I did scrape off the skin on the kippers (Crown Prince brand) and fed them to the lovely kitty I'm caring for. If you're not icked by fish-skin then that isn't necessary. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Herbed Pearl Couscous Salad

Cold pasta salads are ubiquitous during high summer, but for good reasons - they're excellent vehicles for summer produce, they're delicious, and can be made in advance and left to loiter in the fridge (or in the cooler toted to a picnic) until needed. This is one of my absolute favorites to make; the pearls of Israeli couscous deviate from the well-trod rotini rut, and it is superlatively tasty and cooling on a hot summer day. It's a nice way to showcase all the herbs that are exploding on my porch, too - the basil, parsley and cilantro provide a rich green backdrop for the mint to accent in refreshing little flourishes.

Herbed Pearl Couscous Salad
Makes 5-6 servings

*1 1/3 cup pearl (Israeli) couscous
*1 cup water
*3/4 cup vegetable stock (or, just use 1 3/4 cup water)
*1 small onion, thinly sliced (or, about a half cup of caramelized onions)
*2 packed cups of assorted herbs: my breakdown is 1 cup parsley, 1/2 cup cilantro, a palmful of basil leaves and a couple sprig’s worth of mint leaves, maybe 7-8. Mint is essential, but don’t overdo it!
*1 clove garlic                        
*1/4 cup olive oil
*Handful of pistachios, toasted and chopped
*Handful of arugula or nasturtium leaves, chopped
*Healthy squeeze of fresh lemon juice
*1/2 teaspoon citrusy hot sauce (I love Chile Spot's Fatalii Fantasii Sauce for this)

In a pot over medium heat saute the onions in some evoo until translucent if you're not using caramelized onions. Remove the onions and add the couscous; saute a few minutes while you bring the water and stock to a boil. Add the boiling water/stock to the couscous, stir well, cover, and cook on low for about 11 minutes. Make the herb pistou by blitzing the herbs along with the oil, garlic and pinches of S&P in a small food processor.  Add the pistou, nuts, onions and greens to the couscous, mix everything together well, and then season with the hot sauce, lemon juice, and S&P to taste. Serve at room temp or chilled.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream

How is it that it's nearly come to August and I haven't posted a single ice cream recipe yet!? Well, I decided that since I've dawdled this long, the first one of the summer better'd be a doozy - and let me tell you, this ice cream is a doozy. The other household half deems it the best ice cream I've ever made, surpassing even the famed cereal milk ice cream. This one oozes summer; it was born of a lazy, sticky evening out on the porch around the charcoal with sticks in hand, slowly and carefully turning marshmallows over winking-red embers. It also oozes pure toasted marshmallow flavor in every creamy cold bite: fire and smoke and hints of those charred sugary blisters from when you push your luck too far and a marshmallow bursts into flame. You must make this ice cream. Yet *another* reason to build a campfire or get a nice charcoal grill going this summer!

Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream
Makes about a pint
Adapted from The Merry Thought

*5 oz marshmallows
*3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
*1 cup whole milk*
*1/4 cup sugar

*Pinch kosher salt
*1 scant teaspoon vanilla extract
*1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
Find some roastin' sticks and recruit a partner to toast all the marshmallows over a dying fire, throwing them all in a blender. Combine the milk, sugar, salt and vanilla extract in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium heat until steaming. Temper the yolks with a little of the hot milk, whisking constantly, then pour the egg mixture back into the pan over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Don't let it boil! Remove from heat and let cool just a touch, while stirring. Pass the custard through a sieve into the blender and blend for about a minute. Let sit for a few minutes, then blend again for another minute. Add in the cold heavy cream and blend for another 20 seconds or so. Pour the mix into a container and chill overnight or at LEAST 6 hours until entirely chilled. Whisk or blitz the ice cream batter well before churning, churn for about 20-25 minutes, and either enjoy soft-serve style or pop into a good container and let ripen in the freezer for a while longer. Enjoy with chocolate drizzle and a graham cracker, if you please!

*In complete honesty, I only had about half a cup of whole milk and subbed cream for the rest, so mine was, like, transcendentally creamy. Feel free to die young and happy with me and do the same, whether or not you have gallons of milk on hand. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Haricot Vert, Purslane & Swiss Summer Panini

A dear friend invited me to raid her garden over the weekend and I was there almost before I hung up the phone. After a lovely evening filled with berry juice-stained fingers, floppy hats, the warm wink of fireflies and the thunk of beans hitting the bottom of a new bucket, I came away with quite a bounty, including a bit of a brand-new-to-me edible weed, purslane. Her Turkish beau pointed out its presence on her property - I gather it is greatly enjoyed by Turkish folk (with yogurt, especially). I like it; it has a slight mucilaginous quality but it is succulent (and IS a succulent!), with a lightly sour, cress-like flavor. A perfect addition to salads, or in this case, a crisply verdant summer panini with beans also plucked from the garden. However, if you don't stumble across it outdoors, you can always sub arugula or watercress.

This sandwich is inspired by the haricot vert panini on the menu at my beloved Tired Hands, although I must confess that even though it has intrigued me for months I have never ordered it because their meat ones are SO GOOD that I'd never dream of eating anything else there. However, my version has me convinced that it's a true contender with the meat'uns, especially in these summer months where something lighter is better. Sometime I'll have to actually order my inspiration while I'm sipping a delicious saison and see how it stacks up!

Haricot Vert, Purslane & Swiss Summer Panini
Makes 1 sandwich

*About 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
*1 teensy shallot or 1/2 of a small sweet onion, sliced thinly
*1 big handful of haricots verts, trimmed & blanched (briefly, like 10 seconds max)  
*1/4 cup purslane leaves + a few extra tender sprigs
*2 slices hearty bakery bread
*4 slices of really good Swiss cheese
*Your favorite fancy Dijon mustard, about a teaspoon & a half
*2 tablespoons good EVOO
*2 teaspoons lemon juice
*Leaves from a few thyme branches

Whisk together the mustard, evoo, lemon juice, thyme leaves and pinches of S&P, set aside. In a skillet, melt a pat of butter with a drizzle of oil over medium low and add the shallots. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and saute for a couple minutes before adding in the beans. Saute a few minutes more then add the purslane leaves and remove from heat. Toss with the mustard vinaigrette. Season to taste.

Brush one side of each of the bread slices with a bit of the other tablespoon of butter (melted or room temp), then assemble the sandwich by smoothing a thin layer of mustard on one slice, then top with half the Swiss, the bean-purslane mix, the reserved sprigs of purslane, and then the rest of the cheese. Press the sandwich in a preheated panini maker for a couple minutes until the sandwich is toasty and the cheese has oozed. Cut 'n eat!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Christmas Chilaquiles

A couple years ago, on one of our many long car trips back from Montreal, my husband and I made a pitstop for some vittles and beer. We happened to land upon a taco joint in the middle of Nowhere, VT, run by extremely stoned hippies. Hippies who made damn good Mexican food. The tousled gamin behind the counter asked about sauce preference; when we asked for both red & green options he said with a shaggy grin, "we call that Christmas". We ate our Christmas enchiladas and took that description back home with us to make our own, along with some of their delicious salsa verde.

Chilaquiles is a dish I'm very fond of, especially when you just want to throw something comforting and savory together quickly. With leftover roasted chicken, salsas from the local taqueria in the fridge (they make 'em better than I do, anyway) and stale tortillas begging for a purpose, this is a great clean-out-the-kitchen dish as well. Plus, it's always fun to have Christmas in July. 

Apologies for the iPhone photo - DSLR will be back in action soon.

Christmas Chilaquiles
Makes 3-4 servings

*Vegetable oil
*1 cup salsa verde
*1 cup salsa rojo
*2 cups shredded chicken, divided
*10 stale corn tortillas, cut into wedges
*Sour cream, cotija cheese, lime wedges, cilantro for serving

Preheat the oven to 400. In a heavy pot heat a couple inches of vegetable oil to fry the tortilla wedges. In batches, fry the tortillas until crisp and browned, and drain on paper towels. Take two smallish baking dishes and ladle a little bit of the salsa verde in one, and the salsa rojo in the other. Toss the cups of chicken with a little respective sauce and then layer tortilla chips, ladles of salsa and shredded chicken in each baking dish. Repeat until all the chips have been used. Bake for 10-15 minutes, then serve by portioning out red and green salsa'd chilaquiles on a plate together. Add a dollop of sour cream + any other fixin's, and enjoy. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Caramelized Onion & Anchovy Tart

This is my dead-simple take on the classic Provençal onion tart, pissaladière, which is so uncomplicated in itself that I feel bad about nixing one of the main ingredients in making it palatable for personal consumption. However, I just ... cannot ... do ... olives. It's a major flaw, I know. I get the essential element of brininess from chopped capers, but feel free to be traditional and scatter cured olives about the tart if that's your thing. A slice of this makes for a perfect summer lunch or dinner, paired with crisp greens and a funky Berliner weiss.

In making caramelized onions, I have found the easiest route is to throw a bunch of sliced onions with butter, oil and seasonings in a cast iron pan and caramelize them at 350, stirring every 15, 20 minutes or so, until they're that lovely deep brown and of jammy consistency, about an hour or two. Plan on cutting up more onions than what the recipe calls for - you'll want more of them hanging around, trust me.

Caramelized Onion & Anchovy Tart
Makes 6-8 servings

*1 cup caramelized onions, about 4 onions' worth
*1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
*1 tin anchovies (use as many as you want, I nearly clear the tin out)
*1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
*1 teaspoon capers, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400. When the puff pastry has thawed, roll it out a few times and put on a lightly cornmeal-dusted baking sheet. Score a thin border around the sheet and spread the onions around inside. Garnish with as many anchovies as you'd like, and rain down some thyme leaves (fresh is preferable but I used dried) over top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry has risen and is golden brown. Garnish with chopped capers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Palak Chana

Or, "lazy lady's palak paneer".

I had a hankering today for luscious, spiced spinach and immediately jumped to palak paneer, but examining my afternoon and the errands & chores that splintered it up, I decided I didn't *quite* have enough time to make homemade paneer, even though it's a rather simple process. Instead, I quickly cooked up the greens in my usual way, added a can of chickpeas to the mix, and satiated my spinach craving even without the help of firm cubes of fresh cheese! My palak chana might have been makeshift, but I was pleased enough with the combo of chickpeas and spinach that I'll purpose to make it again!

Palak Chana
Makes 4 servings

Recipe adapted from various influences, but 101Cookbooks' recipe for saag paneer was most helpful in the framework.

*Cooking oil or ghee
*1 bag of baby spinach (8 cups), chopped into fine ribbons
*Kosher salt
*1/2 onion, diced small
*5 cloves garlic, chopped
*Nub of ginger, about an inch, peeled and chopped
*1 serrano chili, seeded
*1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
*1 teaspoon ground cumin
*1 teaspoon ground coriander 
*Heaping 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
*1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
*1/2 teaspoon garam masala
*Dash or two of cayenne
*Spoonful of plain yogurt (optional, but a lovely addition)
*Rice or naan, for serving

Heat some oil or ghee in a heavy pot over medium and add the whole cumin seeds; when they pop, add and saute the onions with a scattering of salt. You can either mince the garlic, ginger & chili and add them too, or do as I do and make a paste of them in a small food processor by adding a touch of water and a spoonful of canned diced tomatoes to help (if you, like I, always have a jar of leftover canned diced tomatoes hanging around in a mason jar in the fridge). Add the mince or paste and saute for about a minute before adding the spices and a pinch of salt. After they aromatize the kitchen add the spinach and stir for a minute until the spinach wilts, then add the chickpeas. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring often, until spinach is very soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in the yogurt, garam masala, and cayenne. Check for seasoning and serve over rice. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chipotle Chicken Lettuce Wraps

The jar of leftover chipotle chilis in adobo from a $1.69 can beckons my guilty gaze when I open my fridge when I start to make dinner, because much like leftover tomato paste from a .50 cent can or half a tin of evaporated milk, I cannot abide by throwing what I don't use away but I also can't for the life of me remember to use them before they have overstayed their welcome. I caught sight of my chipotle jar loitering near the back of the fridge yesterday and determined to finish the stragglers off once and for all. In noodling around for some new ideas I came across an entry on Bev Cooks for chipotle chicken lettuce wraps, which got the ball rolling. The other household half opted for tortillas instead of lettuce, but I was very pleased with the verdant crunchiness of the lettuce contrasted with the smokey spicy bite of the piquant chipotle sauce. Leftovers successfully and deliciously dispatched! 

Chipotle Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Makes 6-8 lettuce wraps

Recipe inspired by Bev Cooks

*2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
*Cooking oil
*1/4 cup chicken broth
*1 cup tomato sauce (I use a can of El Pato Mexican Hot Style Tomato Sauce which I find at my local Walmart)
*2-3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo (remove the seeds, if you want)
*1/4 onion, chopped
*3 cloves garlic          
*Pinches of oregano, thyme, cumin, allspice
*Couple sprigs' worth of of cilantro leaves (or more, depending on how much you like cilantro)
*1 teaspoon lime juice
*1/2 small red bell pepper, diced
*Boston or butter lettuce 
*3 scallions, sliced
*Lime wedges for serving

Heat some oil in a skillet over medium and season the chicken breasts. Saute about 5-6 minutes per side or until entirely cooked through. Meanwhile, blend the chicken stock, tomato sauce, chipotles, onion, garlic, spices, cilantro and lime juice in a food processor until smooth. When chicken has cooked, move to a cutting board and pour the chipotle sauce into the pan and cook over medium-low while occasionally stirring for 10 minutes or so, until it's a little darker and thicker. Dice the chicken and in a bowl, combine it with the diced bell pepper - add as much of the sauce as you want and stir until the chicken is well-coated. Spoon portions into the lettuce leaves and garnish with scallions before serving with lime wedges and any additional sauce to drizzle on top.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Maple Nut Granola

Throughout granola's pretty storied and interesting history involving patent infringements and puritanical health-guru doctors its always been seen as a model healthy foodstuff, although if we're all being honest here, granola sometimes isn't any healthier than an oatmeal raisin cookie. Which, because I go through granola like crack, is why I tend to make a batch of it only once in a while. You can't make good granola without the fat 'n sweet stuff. However, if enjoyed in units of a couple tablespoons spangled over yogurt, or a handful here and there for a snack, I don't think too much guilt (or calories) will accrue! It's just the self-policing that gets difficult.

Much thanks to a recipe posted on The Kitchn for introducing me to the magic missing ingredient that, in tandem with all the others, makes granola clump up so well - oat flour! Simply blitzing some old fashioned rolled oats in a food processor until they're powder will work perfectly.

Maple Nut Granola
Makes about 8 cups

*3 cups oats, 1 blitzed to powder, the other two blitzed a few times to break 'em up
*2 cups coarsely chopped raw nuts (I used hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios)
*1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
*1/3 cup maple syrup
*1/4 cup brown sugar
*1/8th cup almond oil
*2 tablespoons butter
*1 tablespoon water
*Big pinch kosher salt
*1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1 cup dried fruit (I used cherries and cranberries)

Preheat the oven to 280. In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat powder, nuts and spices. Heat the syrup, butter, oil and sugar together in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is hot. Stir in the vanilla and salt and then pour the hot sweet sludge over the oats and nuts, combining well to coat. When it's uniformly moist, let it sit a few minutes.

Spread the mix out on a large baking sheet, separating it into clumps with your fingers, and allowing for space between the clumps. Slide into the middle of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating once or twice, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and flip clumps over, gently breaking up the knots into smaller clumps. Return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes or so before stirring again. Take stock of the granola - is it as crunchy and browned as you'd like it to be? If you want to push on further, continue the stir-check cycle in 8-10 minute increments. When it's to your satisfaction, cool completely, then stir in any dried fruit you want to use.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature and it'll keep for a couple weeks (but it won't last nearly that long). 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fiddlehead & Ricotta Crostini with Tarragon & Lemon

It's that wonderful time again, when I amble down to the park and take an appraising look at the verdant curlicues popping up from the brown, leaf-strewn earth - fiddlehead season! Last year I made a pasta dish with my modest take, and this year, with a largesse of homemade ricotta cheese left in the fridge, I decided to serve the fiddleheads with an herb-spiked, lemony ricotta spread over crostini. I love asparagus with lemon and tarragon and as I guessed, the fiddleheads fit right in with the flavors as well.

Feel free to refer to my previous post for further information about foraging for fiddleheads. Also, I highly recommend making your own ricotta cheese for this recipe (and any other recipe, in perpetuity!). Using instructions from The Kitchn, I found it an extremely simple process with a vastly superior result.

Fiddlehead & Ricotta Crostini with Tarragon & Lemon
Makes 4 crostini

*4 slices bread from a nice bakery loaf
*1 small nubbin butter
*20-some fiddleheads, washed and cleaned well
*1/2 cup ricotta cheese (preferably homemade)
*1/2 teaspoon chopped tarragon leaves
*Lemon zest from one lemon
*1 clove garlic, cut in half

After cleaning the fiddleheads thoroughly, blanch for about 30 seconds in roiling water and drain. Brush your bread slices with a little bit of evoo and pop in the (toaster) oven at 350 to bake until golden. Meanwhile, melt a touch of butter and a drizzle of evoo in a wide skillet over medium and saute the fiddleheads a couple minutes. Stir the tarragon, ricotta cheese, about 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest (or more, to taste), and pinches of S&P together.

When the bread is toasty, rub them with half a garlic clove, and spread on a thick layer of the ricotta mixture. Arrange fiddleheads on the crostini, and add a few flakes more of lemon zest over top. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ultimate French Toast

Last year at the fabulous Rose's Luxury, my husband and I encountered the best dessert of our lives: a small piece of decadent French toast, topped with foie gras and served with a wee scoop of cinnamon toast crunch ice cream. We were informed that the toast had soaked IN melted cinnamon toast crunch ice cream before it was fried up. This detail stuck in my craw, naturally, so when my husband made a rash but delicious impulse buy of a bourbon barrel aged maple syrup the other day I decided to try my own version of ice cream battered toast for an old-school breakfast-for-dinner evening. Uh, sans foie. I might have the budget and the frivolity necessary for melting down some Ben & Jerry's, but I leave the foie to luxe professionals. I'd heard a tip somewhere along the line about toasting rolled oats and crusting them on dipped french toast before frying, so I decided to go all out and do that too. AND invite caramelized bananas to the party.

Freshly whipped cream spiked with bourbon too, if you please.

Drizzled over this behemoth was the bourbon barrel aged maple sizzurp. I daresay this is the Ultimate French Toast.

Bear plate by Rachel Kozlowski for West Elm

Ultimate French Toast
Makes 3 servings

*3 tablespoons butter
*2-3 egg yolks
*1 heaping cup vanilla ice cream, melted
*Pinch of cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg, pinch of salt
*3 slices thick, hearty bread (challah, brioche, French or Italian)
*1/2 cup rolled oats, toasted until lightly browned and nutty
*1 tablespoon brown sugar
*Bourbon barrel aged maple syrup (or regular grade B, for plebes)
*Fruit of choice (caramelized bananas for me*)
*Freshly whipped cream (OR, a scoop of the vanilla ice cream you used if there's any left)

Melt butter in a wide cast iron skillet over medium. Whisk the egg yolks with the melted vanilla ice cream in a shallow dish, and stir in the seasonings. On another plate, toss the oats and brown sugar together. Dip the slices of bread in the ice cream mix, soaking nicely on both sides, before crusting one side of each with the oats. Fry the bread in the butter about 3 minutes per side. Top with the syrup, fruit and whipped cream (can be made a little before you start the toast prep and kept in the fridge). 

*To caramelize bananas quickly, cut up a few ripe (but not overripe) ones and saute in a couple tablespoons of butter over medium. Sprinkle in some brown sugar and splash in a little bourbon. Cook down for a few minutes, then serve hot.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Farfalle with Butternut Squash, Sage & Sausage

Although butternut, onions and sage are more autumnally associated than most flavor combinations, this is one of my favorite pasta dishes to make whenever there's a chill on the breeze, and this Smarch weather still certainly allows for plenty of roasted butternut squash.  I love farfalle for this dish, as each piece makes a solid and sturdy shelf on which the squash and other goodies naturally collect. Plus, seeing all those the bow-tie shapes fanned out on the plate is pleasing to the eye, or at least my eye! No matter what pasta shape you use though, it'll be an incredibly tasty and filling dinner.

Farfalle with Butternut Squash, Sage & Sausage
Makes 4-6 servings

*1 medium butternut squash
*1 lb farfalle pasta (preferably De Cecco)
*2-3 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
*1 small onion, diced 
*4 cloves garlic
*12-15 fresh sage leaves
*3 tablespoons toasted pepitas
*1/4 cup freshly grated Parm-Reg plus extra for dusting
*1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 400 and cut the squash in half. Scoop out the guts and brush the flesh with olive oil and season with S&P. Place the squash flesh-side down on a baking sheet and pop in the oven to roast for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, towards the end of the roasting time, put on a large pot of water to boil and salt it well. Saute the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Set aside when cooked. Add a tablespoon of butter drizzled with some evoo and saute the onion until nice and soft, seasoning as you go. Add the garlic in and continue to cook for a couple more minutes, then set the onion and garlic mixture aside with the sausage. Turn up the heat and add a little more evoo if necessary to fry the sage leaves. Once they are crisp, set aside on a paper towel to drain.

Boil the farafelle until al dente. While the pasta is cooking take the squash out and scoop the soft innards into a bowl and mash with the Parm-Reg. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the pasta water, and then after quickly wiping out the pasta pot, throw in the pasta, squash mash and sausage/onion/garlic mix and combine everything well, seasoning to taste. If it seems a little dry, wet it with some of the reserved pasta water. Crumble the sage, reserving a leaf or two for final garnish, and mix it in along with the toasted pepitas. Serve with an extra dusting of Parm and some more sage crumbles. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Brussels Sprout Hash

I was ambivalent towards Brussels sprouts for a long time, thanks to that certain sulfurous smell of boiled sprouts that issued forth from the kitchen whenever my old roomie would cook them (sorry Meg!!). I recently had an amazing dish of a roasted sprout salad, and decided it was high time to try to experiment with them. This recipe was adapted from a couple found on Epicurious and has worked itself into my regular rotation. It's tasty, pleasingly crunchy, and makes for an excellent side for just about anything. Nix the bacon, and it's a great vegetarian dish too.

Brussels Sprouts Hash
Makes 4 servings

*1 tablespoon butter
*4 shallots, thinly sliced
*Pinch sugar
*2 scant teaspoons apple cider vinegar
*10 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
*Small palmful of toasted pecans or almonds, slivered
*1/2 small Granny Smith apple, cut into matchsticks
*2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces (optional)

Melt a tablespoon of butter with a drizzle of evoo in a skillet over medium-low. Add shallots, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar, and caramelize for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Scoop out the shallots and set aside.

Then, fry the bacon and mince; set aside. Cut the halved sprouts into very thin ribbons and add to the skillet, turning the heat up to medium. Saute about two minutes and then splash in the vinegar. Continue cooking for a minute or so then add the shallots, apples, nuts and the bacon. Toss well and season to taste.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cream Scones

In an effort to have some palm-able breakfast options around the house, I started looking at scone recipes and was intrigued by a couple that were made with only cream, no butter. The recipe in this post on Chowhound was my eventual inspiration, as it looked like an incredibly simple and fantastic base recipe to incorporate into the rotation. I decided to doctor up the scones with orange zest and dried cherries, but customize yours in any way you'd like! I think next time I'll be trying caramelized onions, sharp cheddar and bits of bacon for a super-savory version.

Cream Scones (with Dried Cherries & Orange Zest)
Makes 8 servings

*2 cups flour
*1/4 cup sugar
*1 tablespoon baking powder
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*Pinch cinnamon
*2/3 cup dried cherries
*1 tablespoon orange zest
*1 1/4 cups heavy cream
*1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
*Raw sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl and add the dried cherries and zest. Stir together the cream and vanilla extract and then combine with the dry ingredients, using a fork. Still using the fork, mix to a rough mass, then turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead briefly (only a couple times) just until the dough holds together. Pat into a 7 inch circle, or thereabouts. Brush the top with the drips and drabs of cream left in your measuring cup, then sprinkle with the raw sugar, if you'd like (I opted not to). Cut into 8 wedges. Separate the wedges and place on a parchment-coated baking sheet. Bake approximately 15-17 minutes until golden brown. Best eaten while still warm!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Winter Citrus Salad

Currently burdened by a nasty headcold in the midst of an unending winter, I yearned for a big bright hit of vit-C today. Luckily, my fruit bin just happened to be bursting with citrus. Halfway through absentmindedly peeling an orange, I was suddenly moved to cut and pare and arrange ALL my fruit into something pretty and sunny and worthy of a wee blog post. It's barely a recipe, but don't discount the mood-lifting power of a plate of glistening, jewel-like cuts of orange and vermillion and pink!

I whipped up a couple tablespoons of plain yogurt, minced mint, squeezes of citrus and a little honey and drizzled the dressing over the salad as you can see in the bottom picture, but feel free to use some mint infused simple syrup or a mere squeeze of lime to add a little extra zing to your salad.

Winter Citrus Salad
Makes 2 servings

*1 grapefruit
*1 blood orange
*1 orange (or clementine)
*Sea salt
*Palmful of shelled unsalted pistachios or pepitas
*Mint leaves

Cut the fruits into slices and then using a paring knife, remove the pith and rind from the rounds. Arrange the pieces on a platter and dust with a teensy pinch of your best sea salt and scatter some pepitas around on top. Tuck some mint leaves in for garnish.

Pro-tip: zest your oranges before cutting and paring and then either use the zest immediately or freeze for another use later.