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Saturday, November 29, 2008

winter salad: roasted acorn squash, apples & blue cheese

winter salad
After all the Thanksgiving dinners, I can only think about salads (and running 6 miles a day every day this week to make up for the pumpkin brownies my Gramma made). This is adapted from December 2008 Bon Appetit, which originally called for butternut squash but I substituted acorn. (Also note, this is half the original recipe -the original serves 10.)

Grocery list: (dressing) 1 T balsamic, 1 T lemon juice, 3 T good quality olive oil; (salad) 2 T balsamic, 1 tsp brown sugar, 1 2-pound butternut or acorn squash, 2 heads belgian endive, 1 fuji apple, 4 oz crumbled blue cheese, 1/4 c dried cranberries.

balsamic glaze for squash

Start by roasting the squash. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Peel and slice crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces. Arrange on a lined baking sheet and brush each piece with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 5 minutes at 400 degrees. Whisk the balsamic and brown sugar together, then brush each piece of squash; return to the oven and roast for an additional 5 minutes.

roasting acorn squash

Flip squash pieces and brush with remaining vinegar-sugar combination. Continue to roast until squash is fork-tender, about another 15 minutes. Allow to cool.

Trim the root ends of endive and arrange leaves on plates - about 5-6 leaves per plate, for 4 plates. Core the apple and cut into thin strips, and evenly distribute across plates. Place squash strips in center of each plate, and top with cheese and cranberries.

For the dressing, whisk the balsamic, lemon juice and olive oil with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over each salad and serve. This would also be nice with a few pieces of toasted walnuts too...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

football sunday onion dip

onion dip

A loves french onion dip: the gnarly, plastic-y "helluva good" brand french onion dip in a can. I can barely stand to look at the stuff, not to mention taste it. The label includes about 57 chemicals and "powdered" flavoring. Needless to say, I don't buy it unprompted. When I saw an article in December Food & Wine, where they suggest several different themes for parties and accompanying menus, I jumped on one that called for a homemade onion dip. It was simple enough, just caramelize some onions and mix with sour cream and cream cheese. I'd rather spend 10 minutes making this than ever buy the canned stuff again.

Grocery list (adapted from the original): 2 large onions, worcestershire sauce, 4oz softened cream cheese (half a block), 3/4 c sour cream, handful parsley, butter.

two large onions for dip

Start by thinly slicing the onions. Heat 2T butter in a dutch oven over medium heat, then add the onions.

caramelizing onions

Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are golden, about 20 minutes. Add a couple tablespoons water, and stir until the liquid cooks out. Remove from heat.

chopping caramelized onions

When the onions have cooled, move them to a cutting board and chop finely. Stir them into the sour cream and cream cheese.

onions worcestershire parsley cream cheese

Add about 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, a couple dashes worcestershire, and season with salt and pepper. I also added a pinch of dried red pepper flakes for kick. Refrigerate until ready to serve - with lots of salty potato chips on the side.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

salmon with tarragon mustard glaze

salmon with tarragon mustard sauce

I'm finally back in my own kitchen after 2 weeks in Sri Lanka. Instead of my normal flurry of kitchen activity after a trip, which usually ensues after I've missed cooking for a while, I've been completely laid out with jet lag. It's especially bad since I've had 3 new cooking magazines to look through, and have about 200 recipes tagged to try.

The only thing I've had energy to cook is this roast salmon from Bon Appetit. And if there's anything getting up from a semi-comatose state on the couch for, it would be this salmon. Tangy yet sweet, slightly crispy on the outside, it's just perfect. The recipe calls for a 3 pound side of salmon, but I only cooked a pound (so I only made a half batch of sauce - enough for A to have extra so he could pretend he wasn't eating salmon).

Grocery list: 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup spicy brown mustard, 3 T each finely chopped chives and tarragon, zest of 1 lemon, juice from half a lemon, 1 T brown sugar.

tarragon chives brown sugar

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce.

tarragon mustard chive sauce

Place the salmon (skin-side down) on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

salmon ready to roast

Spoon just enough sauce over the salmon to cover the top of the fish - about one third of the total sauce. Roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the inside is opaque and flakes easily. Serve with the extra sauce.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

jamie oliver's rotolo of spinach, squash and ricotta

butternut squash rotolo with crispy sage

According to Jamie Oliver, he was discovered with this stuffed, rolled pasta dish called a rotolo (someone important saw him making it, and his TV chef career began). It's actually less labor-intensive than ravioli, since you are basically working with one giant stuffed piece of pasta instead of 30+. And if you really want to impress someone with dinner, it should be delicious, beautifully presented, and unique. This rotolo fits the bill perfectly.

Grocery list: 1 pound fresh pasta dough, 1/2 butternut squash (halved, deseeded), olive oil, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp fennel, 1/2 a dried chili, handful of fresh oregano leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 1.5 pounds fresh spinach, butter, grated nutmeg, 5.5 oz ricotta, 2oz grated parmesan, fresh sage leaves.

pound of fresh pasta

Make pasta dough (after many batches, I've now settled on a 2 cups flour + 3 whole eggs + 3 yolks to make the perfect consistency).

making single pasta sheet

Then, fix all pasta pieces together with a dab of water at the edges, so you have one large rectangular sheet of pasta.

Jamie's recipe calls for cubing the squash and seasoning with ground coriander, fennel and chili - I simply roasted it with olive oil, salt and pepper (along with a spaghetti squash I was using for another meal). Roast for about 45 minutes, or until fork tender. Mash the squash pieces until they are almost spreadable, and allow to cool.

garlic and oregano for rotolo

Mince the garlic and fresh oregano, and saute in olive oil over medium-high heat for a few seconds.

fresh spinach for rotolo

Add the spinach - it will look like way too much, but will cook down drastically as long as you keep moving it around the pan.

spinach cooked down

After the water has cooked out (5 minutes or so), add a couple T of butter, season with grated nutmeg (1/2 tsp?), salt and pepper. Allow to cool.

ricotta and parmesan rotolo filling

Spoon the squash, spread the spinach, sprinkle the ricotta and then parmesan, leaving 2 inches at the top of the pasta sheet clear. Roll up like a jelly roll, then wrap in a cheesecloth and tie both ends. Boil gently in a large pot of salted water for 25 minutes.

wrapped rotolo

Jamie's recipe also calls for clarifying 1/2 pound of butter (heating it till the whey separates, spooning off the whey, then using the rest so you can fry it without smoking or turning brown). I actually just used olive oil to fry the sage leaves, drained them on paper towels, then melted some butter to pour over the rotolo.

cooked rotolo

Remove from the water, cut the cheesecloth carefully away, and slice into 1-2 inch thick pieces. Drizzle a little butter, sprinkle with extra parmesan, and lay a couple of fried sage leaves over the top.

Friday, November 14, 2008

steak with whiskey mustard sauce

steak with whiskey mustard sauce

This is absolutely amazing steak sauce. I'd say you have to try it, but I think I could get sued - it requires you to light the alcohol in the pan, and I don't want to be responsible for what happens. I have a pitiful range hood with a built-in microwave, so it's too low for this to be attempted safely again. But if you have a real range hood that sits more than 2 feet away from your stove top, you'll love making this sauce all the time.

Grocery list: 2 pound top butt steak, 2-3 shallots, 1/2 cup whiskey (or single malt scotch, which is what I used), 1 cup chicken broth, 2 T dijon mustard, 3 T butter, 1/2 tsp cider vinegar.

ingredients for whiskey mustard shallot sauce

Let the steak sit on the counter for 20-30 minutes so it can come to room temperature; season both sides with salt and pepper. Finely chop the shallots, and measure out the liquid ingredients before you start (important - the flame will require ALL your attention later!).

searing steaks

Sear the steaks over medium-high heat in a fry pan, in a little olive oil, for 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and allow to rest under a tent of aluminum foil.

sauteeing shallots before adding whiskey

In the same pan, add a little more olive oil if the pan is dry, then saute the shallots until they start to turn translucent. Now, it's time to add the alcohol. The original recipe says to pour it in, and use a long-stem match to light the liquid in the pan on fire. Well, alcohol has a magic temperature where it will burst into flames on its own, so be prepared for this to happen. Go ahead and have oven mitts on, and pour in the liquid. If it doesn't ignite on its own, use the match. It will make quite an impressive flame for a few seconds, then it'll completely die down as fast as it appeared (within 5-10 seconds).

adding butter to whiskey mustard sauce

Next, stir in the chicken broth and mustard, and cook down until it is reduced to about 1/2 cup (it will thicken to a thin syrup consistency). Remove from the heat and stir in the butter.

steak with whiskey mustard sauce ready

Slice the steak and pour the sauce over top to serve.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

swiss chard with goat cheese walnuts & cranberries

swiss chard with goat cheese walnuts cranberries

I've been serving swiss chard with slivered garlic, fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil for a while, and wanted to mix it up. Turns out you can use a popular salad combination of goat cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries - who knew?

Grocery list: rainbow or red swiss chard, goat cheese, handful of chopped walnuts, handful of dried cranberries, olive oil.

toasting walnuts

Chop and toast the walnuts over medium flame, stirring frequently to prevent burning, for a few minutes. Remove from heat.

chard stems and cranberries

Remove the stems from the chard and cut into bite size pieces. Saute in olive oil over medium high heat until they just begin to soften, then add the cranberries.

sauteeing swiss chard

Chop the chard leaves then add to the pan with about 1/4 cup water (pan will be overflowing, but the chard will cook down significantly). Keep moving the chard around so the uncooked leaves on top get moved to the bottom. The water will evaporate as well.

swiss chard with goat cheese and walnuts

Sprinkle a little fresh goat cheese on top, followed by the toasted walnuts, then stir to mix. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, November 10, 2008

chicken and mushroom ragu

chicken mushroom spinach ragu

My bolognese sauce is my favorite accompaniment for pasta, but I don't always have 2 hours to let it simmer. For another protein-rich option, I tried this 20 minute option for chicken "ragu" from October's issue of Gourmet. Next time I won't pulse the mushrooms in a food processor - maybe chop them fine by hand to leave more texture - and possibly will add some olives and a pinch of red pepper for kick. This is a good base made with an inexpensive cut of chicken, so I'll make room in the rotation for this recipe.

grocery list: 6 oz cremini or baby bella mushrooms, 3 cloves garlic, olive oil, 1 1/4 lb sinless boneless chicken thighs, 1 small onion, 3/4 tsp fresh rosemary (chopped), 3 T balsamic vinegar, 1 28-oz can whole italian tomatoes, 1/2 dried pasta (pappardelle recommended in the original), 5 oz fresh arugula (I used spinach instead), plus grated parmesan.

mushrooms and garlic in food processor

Pulse mushrooms and garlic in a food processor till finely chopped.

chicken thigh pieces for mushroom ragu

Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch pieces, and season with salt and pepper. Heat a few T olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, then saute the chicken (stirring frequently) for 3-4 minutes, until it starts to brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon to a small bowl.

minced mushrooms and onions saute

Turn heat down to medium, then add the small chopped onion and cook till it starts to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture, chopped rosemary, and more salt and pepper. Keep stirring until the mushrooms start to release their juice and turn brown - about 4-5 minutes. Add vinegar and cook until it reduces down, another couple minutes.

adding spinach to chicken mushroom ragu

Return the chicken to the pan, and add the tomatoes (as well as the juice). Break the tomatoes down and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Cook pasta and drain. When the sauce is the right consistency, add the arugula or spinach and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until it wilts. Stir in the pasta and season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve with grated parmesan.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

chocolate pudding with espresso whipped cream

chocolate pudding with espresso cream

I never thought pudding was something you can actually make at home; I guess that proves how powerful the brand association Jello has created (either that, or simply proof of my ignorance). This recipe from the November 2008 issue of Bon Appetit only took a few ingredients, things I keep in on hand anyway. The espresso powder is so simple but adds a "grown up" twist.

Grocery list: 1/4 c sugar, 2 T powdered sugar, 2 T cornstarch, 1 T + 1 tsp instant espresso powder, 2 c whole milk, 1 c bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips, 1 T butter, 1.5 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 c heavy cream.

sugar cornstarch espresso powder for pudding

Mix 1/4 c granulated sugar, cornstarch and 1 T of espresso powder in a small saucepan, then add the milk. Set heat to medium and whisk to blend.

espresso powder vanilla butter in milk

When the mixture starts to boil, it will thicken after only a couple minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the chocolate chips, vanilla and butter.

chocolate pudding

Divide into small ramekins (6 small, according to the recipe; I divided into 4 for larger servings) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To make the whipped cream, put the cream, powdered sugar and 1 tsp espresso powder in a bowl and mix with an electric hand mixer for 2-3 minutes, until it thickens to the right consistency. Serve the pudding with a big scoop of espresso cream on top.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

bacon cheddar quick bread

bacon cheddar cranberry bread

I've never had a desire to bake my own bread, but I guess that's the next step in my adoption of the "slow food" trend. When I saw this recipe for a bacon and cheddar quick bread in the October 2008 issue of Bon Appetit, it was time to bite the bullet. It only took a few minutes to put together, and made a great breakfast. This would be a great bread to throw together if you have house guests - impressive but very hands-off.

Grocery list: 5 slices bacon, 6 oz cheddar, 1/2 cup dried fruit (original recipe called for dried pears; I used dried cranberries), 1/3 cup walnuts, 1 T fresh sage (minced), 1 3/4 cup AP flour, 1 T baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 3 eggs, 1/3 cup whole milk, 1/3 cup olive oil.

crisping bacon for bread

First, chop up 5 slices of bacon and crisp it in a pan, then drain over paper towels.

eggs milk olive oil for quick bread

Mix your "wet" ingredients - whisk 3 eggs and the milk and olive oil together.

dry ingredients for quick bread base

Stir your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, pepper) together in a large bowl. Pour the egg mixture into the flour, and stir just enough to combine (don't overwork the batter, it's good if it's chunky).

folding in ingredients for quick bread

The recipe called for 1 cup grated cheddar plus 1/2 cup of 1/4 inch cubes of cheese. For color more than anything, I used yellow extra-sharp cheddar for the grated 1 cup of cheese, and then cubed some seaside extra sharp white cheddar to make the extra 1/2 cup. Fold the cheese, dried fruit, walnuts (toasted and chopped), sage, and bacon pieces into the dough.

bacon cheddar bread ready to bake

Grease the sides and bottom of a one pound loaf pan (8.5" x 4.5" x 2.5"), and spoon the dough in. Bake at 350 degrees on the center oven rack, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. The recipe said 55 minutes (an exact number, which I interpreted as authoritative - should have checked it at 45-50 minutes, as it turned out a touch drier than I would have liked). Cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen the sides of the loaf from the pan with a knife, then invert on a rack and allow to cool to desired temperature.