Monday, December 12, 2011

Gnocchi Baked with Spinach in Goat Cheese-Tomato Cream Sauce

The gnocchi can be made several hours ahead of time and refrigerated until you're ready to cook them and assemble the dish.

Total Time: about 1 hour, 20 minutes
Makes 4-6 servings


For gnocchi:
  • 1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes (about 2 large), peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
For sauce:
Put the peeled and cut potatoes into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are very tender. Drain, and mash the potatoes until very smooth or push them through a potato ricer. Set aside to cool.

While you're waiting for the potatoes to cool, warm the tomato sauce in a saucepan. Add the goat cheese and cream, and keep on low while you cook the gnocchi and spinach. Rinse the pot you used for the potatoes and bring 4 quarts of water to boil for the gnocchi and spinach.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, add the salt and about 3/4 of the flour to the mashed potatoes and stir or knead with your hands to combine. If the dough is still sticky or falls apart easily, add few more tablespoons of flour. You only need enough flour to be able to roll the dough easily. Divide the dough in half and roll into ropes 1-inch thick. Cut the ropes into 3/4-inch pieces. Roll each gnocchi over the tines of the back of a fork.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9x13 pan with a little olive oil. Season the boiling water with a generous amount of salt, then add about half of the gnocchi (if the pot is overcrowded, the pasta won't cook properly). Cook for about a minute, or until the gnocchi float to the top of the pot. Scoop the gnocchi out and transfer to the prepared 9x13 pan. Repeat with the remaining pasta. Wilt the spinach in the pasta water and transfer it to the pan. Pour the tomato-cheese sauce over the pasta and gently stir to combine, being careful not to mash or break the gnocchi.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly around the edges.

Pasta with Roasted Pepper Alfredo and Mushrooms

Total Time: about 30 minutes
Makes 4-6 servings


  • 1 lb dried pasta of choice
  • 1 large bell pepper, in whatever color you'd like
  • 8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 C grated Parmesan
  • freshly ground black pepper

Roast the whole pepper under a broiler, or over a gas flame, until the skin is charred. Transfer the pepper for a paper bag, close, and let steam for 5-10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scrape or peel off the pepper's skin, remove the stem and seeds, and roughly chop. Puree the pepper in a food processor or blender with about a tablespoon or two of cream and set aside.

Meanwhile, boil the water for the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and keep warm while you make the sauce.

In a large sauce pan, melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and heat until browned a bit. Add the remaining butter and the remaining cream. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened. Add the pureed pepper mixture to the sauce, stir in the Parmesan and some black pepper, and taste for seasonings. Stir in the pasta to coat and serve.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Cheesy Grits and Roasted Red Peppers

Total Time: about 50 minutes
Makes 4 servings


  • 4 portobello mushroom caps, gills scraped out
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 C coarse yellow grits
  • 2 C water
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, plus more if needed
  • 1/4 C grated Parmesan
  • olive oil for brushing

Roast the pepper over a gas flame or under the broiler until the skin is charred. Place in a paper bag and close to let steam for 10 minutes. Rub off the charred skin, remove the steam and seeds, and slice into thin strips. Set aside while you make the grits.

In a medium saucepan, bring the two cups of water to boil. Add the kosher salt and slowly stir in the grits. Reduce the heat to simmer until the grits are cooked through and thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir in the butter and the cheese and remove from the heat.

While the grits are cooking, brush the mushrooms inside and out with olive oil and grill over medium-high heat until the mushroom is tender, about 5-6 minutes per side.

Spoon some grits into each mushroom cap and top with a few slices of roasted red pepper. If you want, you can warm these in the oven for a few minutes while preparing another dish, or sprinkle on a bit more cheese and broil the tops so they get bubbly and brown.

Pizza with Roasted Zucchini, Caramelized Onion, and Pesto

You can use whatever pesto recipe you like best. I don't always put pine nuts (or a substitute) in my pesto, and because this was going on a cheesy pizza, I opted not to add grated cheese. You won't need this whole pesto recipe for the pizza, so keep the leftovers in the fridge or freeze it in small chunks and use it when you'd like.

Total Time: about 1 hour, 15 minutes
Makes 1 pizza

Ingredients for Pizza:
1 ball pizza dough (prepared or store-bought)
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
4-5 oz grated Fontina (I actually used Fontiago)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
freshly ground black pepper
cornmeal, for dusting

1 bunch basil leaves
1 small bunch parsley leaves
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
squeeze of lemon juice
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Combine the basil, parsley, chopped garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a food processor and pulse to combine. With the machine running, add enough olive oil to form a thinish paste. Check for seasonings. (At this point I like to transfer the pesto to a plastic squeeze bottle so I can squirt it on the pizza. Have I mentioned how awesome these things are? They're inexpensive, dishwasher-safe, and perfect for sprinkling finishing sauces, salad dressings, and sauces for stir-fries.)

In a large saute pan, heat the two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the sliced onion, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion has caramelized, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss the zucchini slices with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast, flipping the slices over halfway through, until browned in spots, about 20-25 minutes. Remove and set aside until ready to top your pizza. Increase the oven temperature to 475F.

Stretch the pizza dough into a circle or rectangle, about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet and transfer the pizza dough onto the sheet. Top with the caramelized onions, zucchini, and grated cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is browning and bubbly. Remove from the oven and drizzle some pesto on top. The heat from the pizza will warm up the oils in the pesto. Let cool for a minute before slicing and enjoying!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spiced Hot Chocolate with Rum

It's getting cold outside and you need something hot to drink. And chocolate. And booze.

Total time: 12 minutes
Serves 2

  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate (I like using chocolate with chilies in it), broken into small pieces
  • 2 C milk
  • 1 3-inch piece cinnamon
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 3-4 Tbsp dark rum

In a saucepan heat the milk with the cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, until the milk is fragrant. Take off the heat and strain to remove the spices. Ddd the chocolate pieces, whisking until the chocolate is melted. Stir in the rum to taste and divide between two mugs.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Banana Bread

You can freeze one or both of these loaves after they are baked. Just wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Thaw in the refrigerator or on the counter and reheat gently in the oven, or slice and warm in a toaster oven.

Total Time: about 1 hour, 15 minutes
Makes two 9x5 loaves


  • 4 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 C pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 C lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 C whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 C rolled oats, plus 1/2 C more for topping
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle position. Grease two 9x5 loaf pans with butter or non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the mashed bananas, pumpkin puree, olive oil, brown sugar, and eggs. In a separate bowl, combine the flours, 1 cup oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Fold the dry ingredients into the pumpkin-banana mixture until just combined.

Divide the dough between the two prepared loaf pans. In a small bowl combine the remaining 1/2 cup oats with the melted butter and sprinkle on top of each loaf. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of each loaf comes out clean. Let the loaves cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on the rack.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gemelli with Sausage, Pumpkin, Spinach, and Caramelized Onions

Total Time: about 40 minutes
Makes 6-8 servings

1 lb good quality, mild sausage
1 lb dried gemelli
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/4 C plus 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch sugar
10 oz spinach, washed, tough stems removed
4 tsp minced garlic
1/2 C dry sherry or white wine
1 C pumpkin puree
3/4 C light chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbsp butter
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, season with a teaspoon of salt and the pinch of sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized, about 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

While the onions are cooking, boil a large pot of water for the the pasta. Season the boiling water generously with salt, add the gemelli, and cook until just al dente. Drain the pasta and keep warm while you make the sauce.

In the now-empty pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no pink remains. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. You need about 2 tablespoons of fat left in the pot; drain off any excess or add more olive oil if you need it.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add the sherry, turn up the heat and reduce by half. Add the chicken broth and pumpkin puree and stir to combine. Reduce the sauce until thickened, then add the spinach and cook until wilted. Throw in your butter, cooked sausage, caramelized onions, and pasta, and toss to combine. Taste for seasonings and add black pepper if you'd like. Serve with a crusty garlic bread!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pasta with Fennel, Bacon, Roasted Peppers in Pesto

Makes 4 servings
Total Time: about 45 minutes

2 bell peppers (whatever colors you'd like)
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 shallot, roughly chopped
about a cup parsley leaves
about a 1/2 C basil leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4-1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
9 oz dried rotini or penne
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 oz bacon, chopped into pieces
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/2 C sherry or white wine
1/2 C grated Parmesan

Char the peppers over a flame or broil until charred on all sides. Place the peppers in a paper or plastic bag, close, and let steam for a few minutes while you make the pesto.

In a food processor, add the garlic, shallot, parsley, basil and salt. Pulse until combined and the herbs and aromatics are finely chopped. With the processor running, add enough olive oil to make a thick paste (or whatever consistency you desire. Taste for seasonings and add more salt if you need to.

Take the peppers out of the bag and removed the charred skins, stem and seeds. Slice the peppers thinly.

In a large pot, boil water for the pasta and salt generously. Cook the pasta until it's almost done, then drain (you're going to add it back to the pot later).

In the same pot heat tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Keep two tablespoons of fat in the pan and pour off any excess. Add the fennel and cook until softened. Add the sherry, turn up the heat, and reduce slightly. Return the pasta to the pot, as well as the roasted peppers and about 3 tablespoons of the pesto, or more if desired (reserve the rest for spreading on bread or adding to soup, or whatever you'd like). Lower the heat and cook until everything is warmed. Serve in bowls, topped with the bacon crumbles and grated Parmesan.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Mushroom Risotto

This dish has Fall written all over it: creamy risotto with earthy mushrooms, crispy and salty toasted squash seeds, and an edible bowl of sweet, roasted vegetable goodness.

Total time: about an hour
Makes 4 servings

2 acorn squashes, 2 lbs each
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
8 oz mushrooms of choice, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 C Arborio rice
1/2 C dry white wine or sherry
4 C light chicken or vegetable stock, kept warm on the stove
3 tsp kosher salt, divided
freshly ground black pepper
2 oz ricotta salata, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the middle position. Cut the acorn squashes in half lengthwise (you might have to microwave them for a minute to soften them up enough to get your knife through). Scoop out the squash guts and seeds and remove as much of the fibrous innards as you can. Rinse the seeds under water to help remove the rest of the pulp and dry the seeds on some layers of paper towels.

On a sheet pan, drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil. Brush another two tablespoons of olive oil all over the insides and outsides of the of the squash. Sprinkle the squash with 2 tsp of kosher salt and place cut-side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until it is tender when pierced with a fork. Because these are going to be bowls for the risotto, you might have to cut a small piece from the curved peel-side so that they can stand on their own when you fill them. (Be careful not to cut too much into the flesh or the squash.)

While the squash is roasting, toast the seeds and make your risotto. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the squash seeds, season with 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and toast, stirring frequently, until the seeds are puffed and browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, season with the remaining salt, and saute until softened. Add the minced garlic and saute until the mushrooms are garlic are beginning to brown. Transfer the mushrooms and garlic, leaving any fat remaining in the pan and set the plate aside. (If you don't have any fat left in the pan, add another tablespoon of olive oil in the next step.)

Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the rice. Toast for a minute or two, then add the wine. Let the rice absorb the sherry, stirring frequently. When almost all of the liquid has been absorbed, ladle  in a 1/2 cup of the stock, stirring again until the rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid. Continue adding a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently as the rice absorbs each ladle-full of liquid, until the rice is tender and quite creamy (about 35-40 minutes total). Remove from the heat, and stir in freshly ground black pepper as desired, and the cheese. The cheese will melt as you stir. To serve, scoop about a cup of the risotto in each squash cavity, and top with squash seeds. Enjoy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Poached Egg on Creamy Grits with Mushroom, Red Onion, and Sherry Sauce

Total Time: about 45 minutes
Serves 2

  • 1/2 C corn grits
  • 1 C milk
  • 1 C water
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 C thinly sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 C thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 (6-inch) sprig rosemary, leaves chopped
  • 1/4 C sherry
  • 3 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

In a medium pot, bring one quart of water to a simmer. Crack one egg into a small prep bowl and gently slide it into the simmering water. Cook the egg up the white is firm. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Repeat with the remaining egg.

In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil the milk and water. Slowly add the grits and season with 1  1/2 teaspoon of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook the grits, stirring, until they are thick and creamy, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the heat and add a tablespoon on butter, stirring to combine as the butter melts. Keep warm while you cook the vegetables.

In a large skillet, melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the red onions, season with the remaining salt, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned. Toss in the rosemary. Add the sherry and increase the heat to bring the sauce to a simmer. Reduce the sauce slightly and remove from the heat.

Now for plating: spoon the grits between two bowls, and top with the red onions, mushrooms, and sherry sauce. Place the skillet back on low heat and add a tablespoon or two of water. Add the poached eggs to warm, then place them on top of each bowl of grits and goodness. Season with extra salt and pepper, if desired.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sweet Potato Rosemary Biscuits

So tasty and fluffy you will probably eat them all in one sitting. And that's okay, because you'll be getting some of your vegetables as you do.

Makes about 8 biscuits
Total Time: about 30 minutes


  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp rosemary butter, chilled, cut into pieces (recipe follows) 
  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato, boiled, mashed, and chilled (should yield about a cup)
  • 1/3 C whole milk

Preheat the oven to 425F with rack in the lower-middle position in the oven. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a very large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, and salt. Scatter the butter pieces on top and with your fingers, rub the butter pieces into the flour, breaking up a few large chunks as you go. (This does not have to be perfect. You don't want to melt the butter with your hands by working it too much. If you "undermix" it the worst that can happen is that you're left with yummy gooey butter pockets in your cooked biscuits.) In a separate bowl combine 1 cup of the chilled, mashed sweet potatoes and the milk. Scrape the mashed sweet potato mixture into the flour mixture, and again with your hands, fold the flour into the liquid ingredients until combined, kneading a bit with the heel of your hand to create a dough.

Turn the dough onto work surface (you probably won't need much flour, if any at all). Gently pat the dough into a disk about 1 inch thick. Cut the biscuits with a 2 1/4- or 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter. Place the biscuits onto the prepared baking sheet so that their sides are just touching (this helps them poof up in the oven). Gather the dough scraps together and cut out more biscuits. (You can gather and cut a third time to use the remainder of the dough, but these biscuits will be tougher and lame. I usually don't care, but it's up to you.)

Bake in the oven until golden, about 20-24 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Serve warm.


Rosemary Butter:

6 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
3 (6-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves roughly chopped

Mix herbs with butter in a small bowl until well combined. Refrigerate until firm.

Note: I like to roll the butter up in a little log using some plastic wrap. This makes it easier for cutting slices if I'm not going to use it all at once.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Yogurt Parfaits: Make-Ahead Breakfast Meals

I'm feeling pretty awesome today. I've been really productive, planned all of our meals for the week, already done the grocery shopping for them, and I did the dishes after dinner like a real adult. I've even made breakfasts for the rest of the week: these little "parfaits". 

You can substitute whatever ingredients you'd like here. This isn't actually a real recipe; it's more like a set of guidelines for creating your own healthy, layered breakfast. Once you've got your ingredients down, throw them in jars and store them in the fridge so you can take one on the way to work in the morning. They should keep for about a week.

Makes 5 half-pint jars
Total Time: 10 minutes

  • 2 1/2 C plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • about 3/4 C granola
  • 4 oz frozen fruit of choice, thawed and pureed (in these I used mixed berries)
  • about 1 C chopped fresh fruit (here I used plums)
  • ground cinnamon, for sprinkling
  • honey, for drizzling

Dollop about 1/4 cup of yogurt in the bottom of each clean half-pint jar (you should have about half of the yogurt left). Sprinkle about two heaping tablespoons of granola, and 2 tablespoons of fruit puree in each jar, divide the chopped fresh fruit evenly and layer it on top of the puree. Distribute the remaining yogurt between the jars, sprinkle a little cinnamon, and drizzle a bit of honey on top. Put the lids on and store in the refrigerator.

Happy Birthday to The Zippicurean!

It's been one year since my first post and launch of this blog! It was probably the worst year for me to start a blog and attempt to keep up with it--I began writing my dissertation, moved to a different state, and started a new job, but some how I managed to keep this going and actually gain some readers along the way. Here's to another year of writing, eating, and sharing!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sesame Oil Pesto

I wanted to make a different kind of pesto to go with our steak and gingery cabbage slaw, so I decided to replace the pine nuts and parmesan with ground sesame seeds and the olive oil with toasted sesame oil. It has a great nutty flavor and definitely stands up to steak, but would also be great spread over toast or tossed over rice noodles.

Makes about 1/2 cup
Total Time: 5 minutes

2 Tbsp sesame seeds, ground with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder
1 handful of parsley (I like leave a bit of the more tender stems on)
1 handful basil leaves
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1/4 C toasted sesame oil

In a food processor or blender, add the ground sesame seeds, parsley, basil, soy sauce, and chopped garlic. Pulse a few times until everything is finely chopped and well combined. Drizzle in a bit of the sesame oil and pulse to combine. Add as much sesame oil as needed to get the texture you desire. Serve over whatever you'd like.

Note: Pesto freezes really well. I like to make a big batch and freeze it in ice cubes trays. That way, once frozen I can just pop the cubes into freezer bags and take a few out when I need it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Red Onion-Bacon Marmalade

A little sweet, a little tangy, and perfect for putting on pretty much anything--meat, bread, eggs, you name it. Make up a batch, put it in a jar and keep it in your fridge for about a week (if it lasts that long).

Makes about 2 cups
Total Time: about 45 minutes

2 1/2 lbs red onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 oz bacon, chopped into small pieces
1/2 C sherry
1/2 C apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsps brown sugar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Over Bangers and Mash
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until it is brown and slightly crispy.

Remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

With a toasted bagel and fried egg
Lower the heat to medium and to the leftover bacon fat, add the red onions, cover, and cook until the onions are tender (10 minutes or so). Add the sherry, vinegar, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and ginger and stir to combine.

Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover, lower the heat, and let simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer until the mixture is thick and syrupy. Add the cooked bacon, stir to combine, and spoon over whatever you'd like!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Simple Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

We experienced the first cool, crisp fall day yesterday so it was the perfect night for a nice warm, hearty pasta. Even though the sauce takes some time to make, it couldn't be easier to put together. You probably have everything to make this in your pantry and fridge already. This is an adaptation of Marcella Hazan's "Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter" (published in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking).

Makes 4-6 servings
Total Time: 1 hour
Active Time: about 10 minutes

3/4 lb ground beef (I used lean; you'll have to adjust the amount of butter you use based on the fat content of your beef)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
28 oz canned diced tomatoes (preferable San Marzano)
1 white onion, cut in half at the equator and peeled (root and stem ends left intact)
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp vermouth
freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
1 lb dried spaghetti, or pasta of choice

In a 4-qt pot, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, season with salt and stir, breaking up with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the beef is browned. Add the tomatoes, onion halves, pepper to taste, and another pinch of salt (depending on how salty your tomatoes are). Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let barely simmer for about 50 minutes. This is the great part--you don't actually have to touch the sauce at all during this time. After all that simmering, fat should have risen to the top of the pot.

Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water, season generously with salt, and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and keep warm while the sauce finishes.

Remove the onion halves from the sauce and discard or save for another use. Stir and taste for seasonings. Turn up the heat to a medium boil and add the vermouth. Stir and let cook for 5 minutes or so. Divide the pasta between bowls and spoon sauce over. Add cheese if you'd like and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cuban-Style Black Beans

Beans are totally made for the slow-cooker. And for freezing. After the beans are done, distribute between freezer bags and you've got instant yummy side-dishes for the next few weeks. If you like your beans more whole, skip last step of pureeing the beans.

I made these the week I moved and apparently forgot to take a picture of just the finished beans. So instead, please enjoy a reposted picture of my nachos, including these black beans, crumbled feta, and my roasted tomatillo-mango salsa.

Serves 6-8
Total time (excludes soaking beans): 8-10 hours

1 lb dried black beans (do not use canned)
1 large onion, halved at equator, peeled, root end left intact
1 head garlic, halved at equator, skin left intact
2/3 cup diced tomato
1 tbsp kosher salt
4-6 C water
1/4 lb bacon, cut into small dice or pieces
2 Tbsps olive oil
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsps dried oregano
2-3 bay leaves

In a large bowl or pot, dissolve 3 tablespoons of salt in 4 quarts of cold water. Add the dried beans and soak for 8-24 hours. Drain, and rinse beans. Add the beans to the slow cooker.

In a large skillet, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until  it begins to brown. Add the cumin seeds and toast for a minute. Transfer the bacon and cumin to the slow cooker.

Add the root end of the onion, the garlic head halves, diced tomato, kosher salt, oregano, and bay leaves to the slow cooker. Dice the stem end of the onion and transfer to slow cooker. Add enough water to cover the beans. Put on the lid and cook on low for 8-10 hours (or until the beans are cooked through). Check the liquid level about halfway through cooking time to see if you need to add more--I've found that when I use organic dried beans, I tend to use less water.

Using tongs, remove the garlic, onion, and bay leaves and test for seasonings. If you want your beans mostly whole, skip this last part: take an immersion blender to the fully cooked beans until you reach your desired consistency. I like to puree them just a bit so that some of the beans are still whole and some are pureed. Enjoy the beans over rice, under some grilled pork tenderloin, over nachos, or simply by the spoonful.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Leftover Mashed-Potato Gnocchi

Cooking and ricing potatoes is half the work of making gnocchi, so why not start out with some of those leftover mashed potatoes? This recipe is very easy, but you'll need to watch out for the amount of flour you put in; you only need just enough to make the potatoes roll easily. If you add too much flour, your gnocchi will be heavy. You can make these with any kind of mashed potatoes (parmesan, roasted garlic, or whatever); I've even used mashed potatoes with skins in them.

Makes 2 servings
Total Time: 30 minutes

2 C mashed potatoes
1 egg
1/4-1/2 C all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed

Combine the mashed potatoes with the egg and season with salt and pepper, depending on how seasoned your mashed potatoes are. Add 1/4 cup of the flour, and stir together until well-combined. The dough should form a ball easily and shouldn't stick to the counter when rolled out. If it does, add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time.

Gnocchi waiting to be boiled.
Divide the dough ball in half and roll each half into a 3/4-inch rope. Using a sharp knife or a pastry cutter, cut the ropes into small pieces, each about 1/2-inch wide. Shape each gnocchi by rolling it over the tines on the back of a fork.

At this point, you can cook the gnocchi, refrigerate them for a few hours until you're ready to cook them and toss with sauce, or freeze them. When you're ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to boil, season generously with salt, and boil them in 2-3 batches for 2 minutes, or until they float to the top of the water. Remove them with a strainer and toss with a warm sauce of your choice.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Roasted Tomatillo and Mango Salsa

I like a somewhat chunky salsa, but no so chunky as it doesn't stay on the chip very well. My solution here was to puree half of the finished salsa and then combine it with the other half. This is will keep in the fridge for a week; after I've moved I will figure out a good way to can it and then you (and I) can enjoy it year-round!

Nachos with Cuban-Style Black Beans and Feta

Total Time: 15-20 minutes
Makes about 4 cups

1 lb tomatillos, husked and washed
1 lb mango, peeled and chopped
1 C chopped red onion
4-5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 Tbsp olive oil
juice from 1 lime
1 tsp salt
whole fresh peppers that you like (I used 8 Thai bird chilies but you should use whatever you like, according to how spicy you'd like it)

Tomatillos, peppers, and garlic waiting for the broiler.
Preheat the broiler.

Slice the tomatillos in half and place cut side down on the broiler pan. Add the garlic and whole chilies (stems included). Broil for 6-7 minutes, or until the skins of the tomatillos begin to blacken.

Toss the roasted tomatillos into the food processor or blender. Peel the garlic, pop off the stems of the chilies, and add them all to the processor. Add the olive oil, lime juice, and salt and puree.

Pour into a large bowl about half of the puree, add about half of the chopped mango, and toss to combine. Add the remaining mango to the processor bowl with the remaining salsa. Puree again. Pour this into the bowl with the chunkier salsa and combine. Taste and adjust for salt. Refrigerate at least an hour and enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Linguine with Fried Fennel

Most of my posts are recipes for multiple people or servings, but this is a dish you can whip up in no time that just serves one. It's so quick and easy you could even make it on your lunch break and still have time to wash dishes.

Don't be put off by the anchovies. They're often used like in Italian cooking. Think of them as a type of seasoning--you won't even notice a fishy taste. They give the sauce a little richness and salt but won't overpower your fennel and herbs.

Total Time: 15-20 minutes
Makes 1 serving

1/2 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 tsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 C olive oil
4 oz dried linguine
1 Tbsp butter
2 anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 C grated Parmesan cheese
2 basil leaves, torn, for garnish

Bring water for pasta to boil in a pot. Generously season with salt and add the pasta. Cook until just al dente and drain.

While the pasta is cooking, fry the fennel. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Toss the fennel slices with the flour to coat. Add the fennel pieces in a single layer to the hot oil and fry, turning with tongs, until the fennel is slightly browned and tender. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.

In the pot in which you cooked the pasta, put back on medium-low heat and add the butter to melt. Add the minced garlic and anchovies and cook, stirring, until the anchovies dissolve into the butter. Add the drained pasta, stir to coat, and remove from the heat. Top with the fried fennel, torn basil, and grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

See this recipe and others at:
Kitchen Geekery

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Curried Coconut Lentils

I made this to get rid of some leftover fridge and pantry ingredients, but it's definitely going to become a part of the regular meal rotation. This curry can work as a side dish or a main dish--it's pretty hearty especially when served over rice. Don't use canned tomatoes for this; the breaking down of fresh tomatoes is an essential part of flavor development here.

Total time: about an hour
Makes 6 servings

1 large onion, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp curry powder
4 green cardamom pods
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp dry mustard
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp ground allspice
2 ½ C light vegetable broth
½ C water
1¼ C brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 carrots, diced
1 C diced tomatoes
½ C frozen green peas
7 oz coconut milk (about half of a can)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger, season with salt, and cook until the onions soften, stirring frequently so the garlic does not brown. Add all of the spices and cook, still stirring, until they are quite fragrant and toasted. Add the tomatoes, season with salt, and cook until they break down completely and the liquid in the pan has evaporated.

Now add the broth, water, and lentils, cover the pan and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, then add the carrots. Remove the lid and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the carrots and lentils are tender and there is just a bit of liquid left in the pan. Add the frozen peas and coconut milk, season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 7-8 minutes as the flavors blend. Serve by itself or over rice.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Braised Chicken Legs and Vegetables in Beer

These roasted chicken leg quarters couldn't be any easier. Just throw everything in the pot, stick it in the oven and go get some laundry done, read a book, or pack some boxes (okay, so maybe not that last bit--I still have a lot to get done before August!). I suggest pairing this with the beer with which you cook.

Makes 6 servings
Active time: about 30 minutes (includes vegetable prep)
Total time: 2 hours

3 chicken leg quarters, skin on
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes
4-5 carrots, peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
1 large onion, peeled and quartered (root end left in tack)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 sprigs rosemary
1 2-inch stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
2 tsp kosher salt
2 C light chicken or vegetable stock
12 oz ale (I used an amber ale)
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325F.

In a very large Dutch oven or stock pot, add the potatoes, then the chopped fennel, the onion, garlic cloves, rosemary, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and 1 tsp kosher salt (or a bit less, depending on the saltiness of your stock).

Season the chicken leg quarters generously with the rest of the salt and add them on top of the vegetables, skin side up. Pour in the stock and beer, add some freshly ground pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes.

Transfer the pot to the oven (still uncovered) and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and spoon some of the braising liquid over the top of the chicken legs. Cover the pot with foil and put back in the oven for another 30 minutes (the foil will help keep the chicken from browning too much).

Remove the foil from the pot, spoon some more braising liquid over the chicken and return to the oven again for 30 minutes. After this final cooking stage, your vegetables should be very tender and the chicken will be falling off the bone.

Remove the cinnamon stick, rosemary stems, and bay leaves. Transfer the chicken to a plate or cutting board and let rest while you plate the dish. You can plate this a couple of ways. If you're having company and want to be all fancy, transfer the vegetables to a large platter or bowl, leaving the liquid in the pot. Pile the chicken pieces on top and keep warm in a 200F oven. If you don't want to serve the chicken legs whole (or mostly whole), transfer them to a cutting board and pull the chicken from the bone (your hands are awesome tools for this if the chicken is cool enough--otherwise just use a fork). Plate the vegetables, still leaving the liquid in the pot, and pile the shredded chicken on top. Keep warm in a 200F oven while you reduce the braising liquid.

With the leftover liquid, bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by a third or so. Spoon the gravy over the chicken and vegetables and serve!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blueberry-Black Peppercorn Infused Vodka

This was awesome mixed with a bit of ginger-lime simple syrup (recipe posted below). This is best served chilled, but I would store your finished bottle at room temperature so the flavors get a chance to mature.

Day 4: ready to strain!

2 pints fresh blueberries, washed
1 tsp good quality black peppercorns, crushed a bit with mortar and pestle
750 ml vodka

Special Equipment:
a very large jar with lid and ring, or 2-3 smaller quart jars
cheesecloth or coffee filter

Day 1 of infusion
Put your blueberries in the very large jar or divide between smaller jars. With the back of a spoon, crush the berries against the glass so they start to release juice. Add the crushed peppercorns and vodka. Secure with the lid(s) and let sit in a dark place for 4 days, giving it a gentle shake once a day.

Put the strainer into the bottle in which you'd like to store your infused vodka (the original vodka bottle or some decorative one will do, as long as the top or cap closes securely). Place a folded piece of cheesecloth in the strainer (this is to catch the pepper chunks). Poor the infused vodka through the strainer, pressing the berries down to release any extra vodka they absorbed. Enjoy!

Ginger-Lime Simple Syrup
1-inch piece ginger, cut into chunks (no need to peel)
1/2 lime, cut into pieces
1 C sugar
1 C water

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until sugar has dissolved. Strain into a bowl or jar and store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Tart with Feta and Caramelized Onions

We ate this as a main dish, but it would make a wonderful appetizer or side dish. It's good warm and at room temperature. If you're serving it to guests, you can make this a few hours ahead--after the tart has cooled, store it, covered, at room temperature until you're ready to serve or reheat it in the oven. Once you refrigerate it, the crust will begin to get a little soggy.

Makes one 9-inch tart

Total Time: about an hour and a half

1 recipe pâte brisée, or your favorite pie/tart dough recipe (you can see mine here), chilled
9-10 oz zucchini, ends trimmed, sliced into 1/8-inch slices
9-10 oz yellow squash, ends trimmed, sliced into 1/8-inch slices
1/2 C thinly sliced onion
1/4 C tomato sauce (try this one!)
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
2-3 oz feta, crumbled

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and place a baking stone on it. Preheat the over to 400F.

In a large bowl, combine the zucchini and yellow squash slices and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the salt, minced garlic, herbs, and black pepper to taste. Let sit while you prepare the dough and onions.

In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and caramelize the onions, stirring often, about 30 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and set aside.

Grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and place it over a sheet of parchment paper on a rimless baking sheet.

Once the dough is just warm enough to be rolled out, roll the dough into a 12- to 13-inch circle (about 1/8-inch thick) over a lightly floured surface. Gently roll the dough around your rolling pin and unroll over your prepared tart pan. Press the dough into the sides and bottom of the pan. Roll your rolling pin over the top of the pan to cut off the excess dough. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork about 10 times.

Spoon the tomato sauce around the bottom of the tart and smooth out with the back of a spoon. Scatter the caramelized onions over the sauce. Alternating zucchini and yellow squash, layer overlapping slices in concentric circles until the tart is filled. Place the pan in the oven on the baking stone and cook for 40-45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time. The vegetables should be tender and starting to brown in spots. Remove from the oven and cook on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Sprinkle on the feta crumbles, slide the tart with the parchment off of the pan and let the tart cool a bit more until you can remove it from the pan and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cherry-Apple-Rum Galette

This rustic tart is so easy to make, you'll never ever want to make a traditional cherry pie again. A pâte brisée is a versatile pastry dough with a high fat-to-flour ratio (read as: super flaky buttery awesome dough). You can easily double the dough recipe; after you remove it from the processor, just divide the dough in half, pat each into a 6-inch disk, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap, put one in a freezer bag, and store in the freezer for up to a month (just thaw on the counter before using).

Makes one 9-inch tart

2 C fresh pitted cherries (about 13 oz)
2 medium apples of choice, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
3-4 Tbsps sugar (taste your cherries and adjust for sweetness)
1/4 C dark rum
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (I ground my own, but if you have the pre-ground stuff you might want to add a bit more)
1/4 tsp salt
pinch freshly ground nutmeg

1 recipe for pâte brisée (see below), chilled

1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)
1 Tbsp sugar

Put a baking stone in the oven on the middle rack and preheat the oven to 400F.

In a large saucepan, add the cherries, apple slices, and rum. Sprinkle with the sugar, cornstarch, and all spices and gently toss to coat the fruit. Heat over medium heat until some liquids release from the fruit and it starts to bubble. Once the the sauce has thickened, stir it again and remove from the heat to cool while you roll out the dough.

Cover a rimless cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment paper. Remove the pâte brisée from the refrigerator and rest on the counter 15-20 minutes before rolling. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle (about 1/8-inch thick). Put the dough circle on the prepared cookie sheet (I roll it up on the rolling pin and unroll it over the paper). Spoon the cherry-apple filling in the center of the dough and carefully spread to form a 9-inch circle.

Lightly brush some egg wash around the perimeter of the dough. Carefully lift up the sides of the dough and place over fruit, pinching pieces of overlapping dough together about every 4 inches, forming a border. Brush the top of the border with egg wash and sprinkle a little sugar over it. Place the cookie sheet on the baking stone in the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the pastry is nice and golden brown. Place pan on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Then slide the pastry with the parchment from the pan and cool on the rack completely.

Pâte Brisée Recipe

1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
2 Tbsps vodka
2 Tbsps cold water
ice cubes

Put the vodka and cold water in a measuring cup or small bowl and add the ice cubes to keep it cold. In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Add the cold butter pieces and give the mixture ten 1-second pulses (the mixture should resemble a course cornmeal). To the flour mixture in the processor, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the iced vodka/water mixture. Pulse the mixture again, adding a tablespoon of liquid at a time (don't feel the need to use the entire 1/4 cup of liquid), until a dough forms. Remove from the food process and form into a ball. Place the ball of dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, press it into a 6-inch disk, wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight (or freeze it if you're not going to use it in a day).

Pâte Brisée

For tarts, pies, or whatever your heart desires. Makes enough dough to one 9- or 10-inch pie/tart crust.

1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
2 Tbsps vodka
2 Tbsps cold water
ice cubes

Put the vodka and cold water in a measuring cup or small bowl and add the ice cubes to keep it cold. In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Add the cold butter pieces and give the mixture ten 1-second pulses (the mixture should resemble a course cornmeal). To the flour mixture in the processor, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the iced vodka/water mixture. Pulse the mixture again, adding a tablespoon of liquid at a time (don't feel the need to use the entire 1/4 cup of liquid), until a dough forms. Remove from the food process and form into a ball. Place the ball of dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, press it into a 6-inch disk, wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight (or freeze it if you're not going to use it in a day). Can be frozen for up to a month. Thaw on the counter before rolling.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Turkey Salad with Avocados, Corn, Red Onion in Sriracha-Lime Dressing

You can use some cooked chicken instead of turkey here. I don't like the raw onion taste, so I soak the chopped onion pieces in a bit of cider vinegar before adding them to the salad. If you're in a serious grilling mood, you could grill the bird, red onion, and corn (in the husks) before making the salad. This would add a great smokey flavor.

Total Time: 10 minutes
Makes about 4 1/2 cups

12 oz (or a little over two cups) smoked, grilled, or roasted turkey breast, chopped
1/2 C chopped red onion (see note)
1 C cooked corn kernels
1 avocado, peeled and cut into cubes
freshly ground pepper
Juice from 1 lime
2 tsps Sriracha
2 Tbsps olive oil
handful of chopped parsley or cilantro (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the chopped turkey, red onion, corn, and avocado. In a separate small bowl, combine the lime juice, Sriracha, and olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the turkey mixture and gently toss to combine. Top with chopped herbs, if using. Serve by itself, in a wrap, or over a bed of lettuce.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Spaghetti with Roasted Garlic-Horseradish Cream Sauce and Steak au Poivre

This sounds like a pretty fancy dish, but it's ridiculously easy to prepare, and you will most likely have all these ingredients (except for the meat, of course) on hand. Note: this is not a healthy dish, and it shouldn't be. I mean, just look at the ingredients. You're salivating over creamy, meaty goodness, aren't you? Balance it out with lots of local fresh vegetables and do a few laps in the morning. You'll be very happy with it, I promise.

Total Time: about 45 minutes
Makes 4 servings

1 1/4-1 1/2 lbs boneless ribeye steaks (about 1-inch thick), cut into 4 equal pieces
12 oz dried spaghetti
2 C heavy cream
3 Tbsps prepared horseradish
1 small head garlic
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsps whole black peppercorns, or steak rub of choice (Penzey's Lemon Pepper seasoning is really nice)
2 Tbsps butter
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F. Bring the steaks to room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients.

Roast your garlic: cut off the top of the garlic head so the tops of the cloves are exposed. Place the head on a sheet of foil, drizzle with the olive oil and a bit of kosher salt, and pinch the top of the foil closed. Place the garlic in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the cloves are soft and mushy and awesome. Squeeze out the garlic cloves into a small bowl. Add the horseradish, and some salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and stir to combine. Set aside.

Crush with a mortar and pestle (or heavy pan, or instrument of choice) the whole peppercorns. Season the steaks well with kosher salt and pat the crushed peppercorns on the tops and bottoms of the steaks.

Meanwhile, make your cream sauce: heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce to a cup of liquid. Remove from the heat and add the roasted garlic mixture, stirring to combine. Taste for seasoning. Keep the sauce warm while you finish the dish.

While the cream's going, cook your steaks. Heat a 10- to 12-inch iron skillet over medium-high heat and melt the butter. Add your steaks and cook 3 minutes per side, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 130F for medium rare). Remove the steaks from the pan, cover loosely with foil, and leave them alone for at least 5 minutes to lock in all the juices. Then thinly slice the steak into 1/4-inch slices.

Bring a large part of water to boil and season generously with salt. Cook the spaghetti noodles until tender and drain. Combine the warm noodles with the sauce, plate, and top with slices of steak. End of salivation.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Soba Noodles with Cabbage, Carrots, and Edamame

A summery, fresh, noodle dish with awesome, complete protein foods like buckwheat and edamame. And sriracha. Get your stir-fry on.

Total time (includes prep): about 40 minutes
Makes 4-6 servings

For Sauce:
1/3 C water
1/3 C tamari or light soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey or agave nectar
1-2 Tbsps Sriracha

For Stir-Fry:
2-3 scallions; white and pale green parts thinly sliced on a diagonal, green parts thinly sliced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 lb green cabbage, thinly sliced
¼ oz porcini mushrooms (about 4-5 pieces), rehydrated in a cup of hot water; mushrooms chopped and about ½ c soaking water reserved
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
9 oz soba noodles (I really like the ones pictured below)
1 ¼ C frozen shelled edamame
¼ C sesame seeds, toasted

Whisk together sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside with a spoon for adding to the stir-fry. (Alternatively, you could put the sauce in a squeeze bottle—squeeze bottles like those red plastic ketchup bottles are one of my favorite inexpensive kitchen tools.)

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the soba and edamame and once it’s boiling, generously season with salt.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, white and pale green parts of the scallions, and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Add the carrots and continue to cook for a few minutes, or until the carrots just start to soften. Add the cabbage, rehydrated mushrooms, and squirt in a few tablespoons of the sauce. Stir everything together to coat it in sauce and cook for a minute or two. When you hear yummy sizzling sounds on the bottom of the pan (when the vegetables start to brown in the pan because of lack of liquid), add a few tablespoons of the mushroom water and stir.

While the vegetables get going, cook your noodles. Into the pot of boiling water, add the soba noodles and edamame (the noodles cook pretty quickly and you want them to be al dente because you’re going to add them to the stir-fry later). Boil for about 3 minutes and drain. Add the noodles and edamame to the stir fry, squirt a few more tablespoons of sauce on top and toss to coat. Divide between bowls for serving and top with green parts of the scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Vegetable-Brown Rice Risotto

I wanted to experiment with making a brown rice risotto, but I knew that it would be difficult because it takes so much longer to break down the starches in brown rice, and hence you don't get creamy texture like you do with arborio rice. To help give it a creamy texture, I started with a vegetable pestata and added a lot more liquid that in a normal risotto. It was a lot of work and took a lot of patience, but the end result was creamy and super flavorful and yet incredibly healthy.

Makes 4-6 servings
Total Time: 1 hour

3 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 C sherry
4 C vegetable broth
2 C water
3-5 dried porcini mushrooms
1 C brown rice, rinsed
2 Tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
salt to taste

Combine the broth and water in a large saucepan and heat the liquid to keep it warm (but not simmering). Once warm, add the dried mushrooms and let steep for 25 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and chop finely.

Meanwhile, put the carrots and celery into a food processor and process to almost a paste. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pestata and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant.

Add the rice and toast for a minute, stirring. Add the sherry and cook until almost all liquid is absorbed. Then add about 2 cups of the warm broth-water mixture. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed (the rice will not be fully-cooked).

Now for the fun part: raise add a ladle or two of broth to the rice at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition until the rice absorbs almost all of the liquid. Repeat over and over again until the rice is fully cooked and gets a creamy texture. This takes a long time so you have to have a bit of patience. Taste for seasonings and add more salt if necessary (depends on the saltiness of your broth).

Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Serve and enjoy the low-fat vegetable-y goodness!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Benjamin's Potato Salad

This all-American potato salad recipe is a reworking of a Gaskins family recipe (Ben Gaskins's grandmother's recipe, actually). We like using red potatoes for this, but feel free to use others varieties or a combination of potatoes. We learned from America's Test Kitchen that if you toss the cooked potatoes with a little light vinegar, they'll retain their flavor better after being boiled.

Active time: about 35-45 minutes, plus chilling time
Serves 12

3 lbs red potatoes, washed and scrubbed
1 Tbsp rice vinegar, or white vinegar
4 cold eggs
1/2 Vidalia onion, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
4-5 stalks celery, diced
1 C mayonnaise (I like using Kraft's olive oil mayo)
1/4 C sweet pickle relish
1 tsp mustard powder
1 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more for potatoes
freshly ground black pepper
pinch sugar, if needed

Peel about half of the potatoes (or all of them if you don't want any skins) and cut them into 1-inch size pieces. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water by about two inches. Bring the water to a boil, season generously with salt, and boil the potatoes are just tender or a fork easily slides into a piece. (It's really important that the potatoes don't break apart at this stage; otherwise they won't hold together when tossed with the dressing.) Drain the cooked potatoes in a colander and let cool for a few minutes. Sprinkle the tablespoon of vinegar over the potatoes while they're still warm and toss gently. Let the potatoes cool to room temperature.

While the potatoes cool, you can cook the eggs, chop your vegetables, and make the dressing. For the eggs, have a large bowl of ice water handy next to the stove. In a pot, about 4 cups of water to boil. Using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, gently lower each cold egg into the boiling water. Boil uncovered for exactly 9 minutes. Remove each egg with the slotted spoon and gently lower into the bowl of ice water. You can leave these in the water until you're ready to assemble the salad.

In a large bowl (the bowl in which you want to serve the salad) combine the onions and celery. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, relish, mustard powder, herbs, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Taste the dressing and adjust for seasonings. If it seems like it's missing a little something, add the pinch of sugar and it will be perfect--I promise.

Once the potatoes have cooled and you're ready to assemble the salad, add the potatoes to the bowl with the vegetables. Remove the eggs from the water and peel them. Chop them into pieces and add to the large bowl. Toss everything together, the add the dressing and toss again. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jalapeño-Cheddar-Bacon Pops!

This extremely unhealthy appetizer was inspired by this post on The Kitchn. I used mascarpone instead of cream cheese because that's what I had on hand. I also added some extra cheesy goodness to the filling, and of course, peppers! This recipe can be played around with in so many ways. Please experiment and let me know about your own variations!

Total Time: about 30 minutes
Makes about 16 pops

8 slices bacon
1/4 C sliced almonds, toasted (or nuts of your choice)
2 Tbsp chopped thyme (or herbs of your choice)
4 oz goat cheese
3 oz mascarpone
1/4 C grated cheddar
1 jalapeño, chopped and seeded if you wish
freshly ground black pepper
lollipop sticks or wooden skewers

Cook the bacon until crispy--you can do this any way you wish; I like to put mine on a half sheet pan and cook in the oven at 400F. Whatever you do, save your bacon fat for a later use because there's just no sense in throwing out any of that greasy goodness. When the bacon is cooked, dot it with paper towels to remove extra grease and break it into pieces in a food processor. Add to the food processor the herbs and nuts and process until fine. Remove the bacon mixture from the processor bowl and set aside.

Add to the processor (you can clean it out if you want, but there's no need to) the cheeses, jalapeño, and black pepper. Process until well combined and the cheese are nice and creamy. Remove the bowl from the machine and take out the blade. Use a small ice cream scoop (aren't those great?) to create balls of cheesy filling, roll each ball in the bacon-herb-nut coating, and place on a cookie sheet or large plate.

At this point your pops will probably start to soften, so place the cookie sheet into the freezer for a few minutes before moving on. Once the pops are cold again, place a lollipop stick or skewer about half of the way through each ball. Place them back on the cookie sheet or plate and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Liz Remizowski's Lemonades

My friend Liz sent me these recipes for her delicious lemonade. Here are her notes: 

Most recipes call for lemon juice and simple syrup. I just make a lemon syrup. Skips a step and makes it more lemony. The blackberry lemonade is good as is, but of course you can add vodka and delicious things like that. I once used the regular lemonade as a base for an Arnold Palmer Sangria* (1 part lemonade, 1 part tea, 1 part white wine, add sliced orange, lemon, and lime, plus a bunch of blackberries and quartered strawberries, refrigerate for a few hours before serving) and it's friggin delicious.

*I got the idea from a Bobby Flay recipe but I made it better.


Ice cubes (from filtered water, preferably)
Filtered water
(amounts given in recipe are approximate)

Squeeze the lemons through a fine wire mesh strainer into a glass measuring cup. See how much juice you have: Pour it, and an equal amount of sugar, into a small saucepan, stir (silicone spatulas are great), and bring to a simmer. (For reference: four lemons usually yield about a cup of juice.) Once all the sugar dissolves and it starts to bubble, remove from the heat and let it sit a few minutes.

Pour the syrup into the container you're going to serve it in, preferably glass. Add ice cubes a few at a time and stir (switch to a wooden spoon), letting them mostly dissolve until you add more. This both cools the syrup and dilutes it. (4 lemons and a cup of sugar usually take about a tray of ice cubes.) Once they've stopped visibly dissolving, dilute the whole mess by half (or a little more, if you like it less strong) with filtered water. If you happen to have willpower and don't drink everything immediately, refrigerate - and cover the pitcher with plastic wrap so it doesn't start tasting like last week's Chinese take-out.


Ice Cubes
Filtered Water
(amounts, again, are approximate)

Squeeze the lemons straight into a measuring cup - skip the strainer. Pour that and an equal amount of sugar into a saucepan along with a bunch of (washed) blackberries. (Assuming 4 lemons/1C sugar, probably a pint of berries.) Bring it all to a simmer. After a few minutes, when the berries start to turn pink, mash them with the back of your spatula. Once all the berries are mashed, remove from the heat and let cool a few minutes.

Set a fine wire mesh strainer over a glass Pyrex measuring cup (4C size), or something similar. Pour the berry syrup mixture through the strainer in batches, scraping the pulp against the mesh to extract all the juices. (Discard pulp and seeds between batches of syrup - there will be quite a bit, and it will clog the strainer.) Once it's all strained, repeat as above - move to pitcher, add ice, dissolve, dilute.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blueberry-Strawberry Muffins

I used fresh berries for these but I'm sure you can use frozen ones too, as long as they're thawed and drained well. I know some people don't like to bake with strawberries because they get a little squidgy, but I've never minded the texture change, and you shouldn't either.

Total time: 30 minutes
Makes 12 regular muffins

Butter for greasing pan
2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C butter, melted and cooled
1 C milk, at room temperature
1 egg, beaten lightly
3/4 total berries; if using strawberries, hull and dice them
turbinado sugar, for topping (optional)

Generously butter a 12-muffin pan and preheat the oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the fruit. In a separate bowl combine the  melted butter, milk, and egg. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, combine until just moistened.

Divide batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3 of the way full (a large ice cream scoop is an awesome tool for this). Sprinkle a little turbinado sugar, if using, on top of each muffin. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are puffed and golden brown. Cool the pan in a cooling rack for 5 minutes before removing the muffins from the tin. Eat them all at once, and take a giant nap.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Whiskey Skin

I know it's been a long time since my last post, but I am currently finishing one of my last semesters of school and the dissertation deadline is approaching.  I've also caught a nasty cold, and have been discovering new recipes to calm my sore throat, coughs, etc.  Here's one that's guaranteed to soothe your throat and stop your coughs for a while.

Makes 1 drink

2 oz hot water (about 130F)
2 oz Irish whiskey
sugar to taste (or honey, or agave nectar, or some sweetener you like)
1 piece lemon peel (without pith)

In a glass, pour the hot water, then add sweetener and lemon peel, top with whiskey.  Stir and enjoy.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spinach Salad with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Sherry-Roasted Tomatoes

I served this with a dressing made of non-fat Greek yogurt and grapeseed oil, but a nice vinaigrette would be wonderful too. I've included two dressing recipes below.

Total Time: 40 minutes
Makes 2 salads

Ingredients for salad:
1 lb Roma tomatoes, quartered
1/2 lb asparagus, ends trimmed and stalks cut in half
2 slices prosciutto, torn to pieces
4 oz fresh spinach leaves
1/4 C dry sherry
2 Tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat over to 400F. In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with sherry and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside while making your dressing and blanching the asparagus.

Bowl a large pot of water, season generously with salt, and blanch the asparagus stalks. With a spider strainer, transfer asparagus to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Set aside until ready to assemble salad.

Pour the tomatoes and and leftover liquid onto a baking sheet at roast for about 30 minutes, or until the skin bubble and being to brown, stirring halfway through cooking time.

Split the spinach leaves between two large salad bowls, and top with the roasted tomatoes, and asparagus. Sprinkle with pieces of prosciutto, and drizzle with the dressing of your choice.

Greek yogurt dressing:
1/4 C Greek yogurt (I used FAGE 0% Total)
3 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried Italian herb mix (or a combination of oregano, basil, thyme)
freshly ground black pepper, to tast
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp water

Whisk together all ingredients until combined.

Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/2 C olive oil
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp water

Whisk together all ingredients but the olive oil. Add the oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly.