Shortcuts and Shortbread (Sautéed Dates with Roasted Butternut Squash Wheatberries and Blue Cheese Salad, Caramelized Butternut Squash side, and Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies)

December 30, 2018 § Leave a comment

I’m hoping that I will be forgiven for taking a shortcut here, as these days I’m rocking a sweet third-trimester style while chasing an extremely opinionated toddler around the house, but I wanted to point out the following:

  1. This grain salad is LEGIT and, as the author rightly points out, would un-sad any sad desk lunch. I will also note that, against all odds and exactly one-half of her genetic makeup, the toddler is a Gorgonzola FIEND.
  2. You might consider a divide and conquer approach to your prep of the aforementioned salad with this Caramelized Butternut Squash side— courtesy of queen Ina herself– which was our contribution to Christmas dinner this year.
  3. These are the best new cookies that I’ve tasted all year. And since the fetus may turn out to be one-half cookie, you can trust me when I say this is a well-researched opinion.
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Molasses ginger cookies

December 27, 2018 § Leave a comment

These cookies are delicious, and remain soft and chewy for weeks!  My mom makes these every year, so they signify Christmas to me.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 C Crisco
  • 2 C sugar
  • 4 C flour
  • 4 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp salt

Cream together the molasses, eggs, crisco and sugar (I just dump them all in the mixing bowl, and then mix – I don’t bother to cream the Crisco and sugar separately).

Mix together the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.  I like to sift in the spices (especially the ginger, as it is so clumpy).

Add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix until just combined.  Refrigerate dough for 45 minutes to an hour. Measure out 1 Tbsp of mixture at a time and roll into a ball. Roll balls in sugar.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.  Sprinkle edible glitter dust on if so desired. 🙂

Makes about 60 cookies.

Lightly spiced red lentil and coconut soup

February 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

*Hey guys, I wrote this 2 years ago but didn’t post it because I never took a photo – I’ll make it again soon and snap a pic, in the meantime…

This soup is so lovely – creamy, warm, lightly spiced (and vegan!).  Stir in some baby spinach or kale, and garnish with cilantro and you’re set!  This recipe is an amalgamation of several, but this was the base, and I’m pretty pleased with the results!

Ingredients

  • oil for pan
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp minced ginger (pssst – I buy it already minced in a jar)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • Spices:  OK, so here I winged it and didn’t measure.  But – my estimates are below.  You could also just use 1-2 Tbsp curry powder.
    • 1-2 tsp cumin
    • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp turmeric
    • 1/4- 1/2 tsp coriander
    • 1/4 tsp garam masala
    • pinch cayenne
  • 1.5 cups red lentils
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 4  cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can coconut milk

Directions

  1. Saute the onion in oil until soft and translucent.  Then add the garlic and cook for a minute.
  2. Add in the ginger, tomato paste and spices, and cook for a minute or so until fragrant.
  3. Dump in the lentils, potato, broth and coconut milk.  Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until lentils and potatoes are cooked.
  4. Eat and enjoy with cilantro or spinach stirred in at the end!

A Louisiana staple: Chicken and Andouille Etoufee

January 8, 2017 § Leave a comment

Shortly after we moved down to Baton Rouge, we discovered etoufee. This really is right up there with gumbo as a staple menu item for anything claiming to be cajun or Louisiana cuisine. Basically it’s a meaty gravy based on a dark roux and served over rice (so it doesn’t take a great picture…). I’ve recently just discovered that it’s a local favorite to serve gumbo over mustardy potato salad, but I haven’t heard the same for etoufee…yet.

img_1485Etoufee is typically of the seafood variety, much like gumbo, with the predominant ingredient being crawfish. Crawfish etoufee is served on it’s own or as a sauce, albeit a thick one, over filets of fish and all kinds of different things. Now since I’m allergic to shellfish, crawfish etoufee is a no go for me. It isn’t super easy to find the chicken or duck and andouille version, but it’s out there. So we decided we should make it at home to feel like real Louisiannes. We’ve made this recipe several times since our first trials about a year ago now.

One of the keys to this and a good gumbo is the roux. Making roux’s over the years for all kinds of things, I never realized that you could or should cook it until it becomes the color of milk chocolate. But that’s exactly what you do and it’s super important. It also takes about 15 minutes. It’s so important that you can buy jars of dark roux at all the grocery stores and other markets around the area. Kind of weird, but it really does matter. The second key ingredient is the sausage. We’ve found a really good fresh andouille here at Whole Foods but they don’t always have it. We need to try some of the new butcher shops that have popped up in the city. It’s really going to affect the flavor of the dish though. The third is the cajun seasoning. You can use one of the standards here “Slap ya mama” or others that you can find around the rest of the country. Here stores devote an entire aisle to this and related items. It’s pretty intense. This recipe is derived from one in Saveur  from February 2011 and they basically use a set of more traditional spices (basil, thyme, black pepper, cayenne). If using the creole spices, then that takes precedence.

The Stuff

  • 34 cup canola oil
  • 34 cup flour
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 12 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Cajun seasoning (otherwise use: 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper,1 tsp. freshly ground white pepper, 1 tsp. dried basil, 12 dried thyme)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 12“-thick pieces
  • 6 large scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • Cooked white rice, for serving

The Details

1. Heat oil in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. Add flour, whisking constantly, and cook for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until roux is the color of milk chocolate, about 12–15 minutes.
2. Add celery, onions, and peppers, and cook, stirring constantly, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices/cajun seasoning, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
3. Add 2 cups chicken stock, and bring to a boil; cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat butter in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with the cajun spices. Add chicken, and cook, turning once, until lightly browned, 4–6 minutes; transfer chicken and butter to Dutch oven.
5. Brown the andouille sausage as well to bring out it’s flavors.
5. Pour remaining chicken stock into skillet, stir to scrape up any browned bits, and then pour into Dutch oven along with andouille; cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes more. Remove pan from heat, stir in scallions, and serve étouffée with rice.

 

 

Cranberry-Lime Pie: a holiday treat or a new gift to the rotation

January 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

This recipe came out in the November 2016 Bon Appetit at the time when I and likely everyone else are trying to find the perfect new holiday recipe. My family typically only reserves one new spot on the holiday menu for something that may become a new classic. Some end up being part of the typical rotation, some end up on the holiday memory floor. This is one that I think will be repeated again and again throughout the year and not just relegated to the holiday table. I think if I were to make it, say, in the Summer, I’d probably go with just a graham cracker crust or make it in a tart shell instead of the gingerbread crust used here and in the original recipe. Then it’s basically a replacement for Key Lime Pie.

cranberry-lime-pieUnfortunately I didn’t take a picture yet, so the picture here is curtsey of the magazine,
but I’m sure I’ll be able to replace it with a picture of the next version. The original recipe calls for a fussy garnish of half-cooked, candied/sugared fresh cranberries. A sprig of fresh mint with a little piped whipped cream would work really well or a candied lime. If you want to go fancy a meringue topping would be excellent. Serving with whipped cream is a nice counterpoint the tartness, so garnishing with that alone around the edge would work out very well.

The Stuff

Gingersnap crust (use this or your favorite graham cracker or tart shell recipe)*

  • 4 ounces gingersnap cookies
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar

Filling And Assembly

  • 1 12-ounce package fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar (divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice (took me 5-6 limes)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
  • Whipped cream (for serving)

The Details

  1. For the crust: Preheat oven to 350°. Pulse cookies in a food processor until very finely ground (you should have about 1 cup). Add pecans; pulse until finely ground. Add butter and brown sugar; pulse to combine. Transfer to a deep 9″ pie dish. Using a measuring cup, press firmly onto bottom and up sides of dish. Bake until firm and slightly darkened in color, 10–15 minutes. Let cool.
  2. For the filling: Bring 12 oz. cranberries, 1 cup granulated sugar, and ¼ cup water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Reduce heat; simmer until cranberries burst and most of the liquid evaporates, 12–15 minutes. Let cool. Purée in a blender until very smooth.
  3. Cook purée, eggs, egg yolks, lemon zest, lime juice, salt, ½ cup sugar, and 1 tsp. lime zest in a double-boiler (heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water with bowl not touching the water), stirring with a rubber spatula and scraping down sides of bowl often, until curd thickens and coats spatula, 8–10 minutes. Let cool until just warm.
  4. Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat curd, adding butter a piece at a time and incorporating after each addition, until curd looks lighter in color and texture, about 5-8 minutes. Scrape into crust and chill until firm, about 2 hours.
  5. Make and assemble the pie 1-2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

 

*For the record, I didn’t make the crust following this recipe, but used the makings for another gingersnap crust. Also didn’t use a deep-dish pie pan, but just a regular one. This led to an extra jar of “cranberry-lime curd,” which was enthusiastically eaten up after it set up with just whipped cream, smeared on cookies, and the like. Really wasn’t an issue getting rid of what didn’t fit in the pie crust.

A blog returns: Butternut Squash Lasagne with Hazelnuts

December 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

Somehow a year and a half jumped away from us. The fact that we moved to Louisiana didn’t necessarily help along with the little bundle of joy that another of us is expecting any time now. Maybe 2017 will be the year one of our bloggers becomes famous for baby food since she already is for horse treats! Anyway we must squeak at least one through for 2016. Though I have a few I’ve been wanting to share.

What makes this the perfect one to share? Well, for starters, it’s pretty darn delicious. Meeting and exceeding my expectations and a great combination of flavors. Equally as relevant for the first entry in 18 months…we had the unexpected pleasure of getting to cook it together during a visit to MN. It was so good I made it again for Christmas Eve dinner a couple months later. I just have this picture before it came out of the oven all nicely browned and gooey. Maybe we have a picture of the first version to add later…img_2559

When I made it the second time, I prepped everything the night before (made the bechamel/cream sauce and the butternut squash mixture) then just assembled it before cooking. Both making it when you want to eat it, and ahead of time worked equally as well.

Recipe from Gourmet, August 2004

The Stuff

For squash filling

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (I used a little less black pepper the 2nd time)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted , loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel, and coarsely chopped (toast in an oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, wrap in a kitchen towel for a few minutes, then rub off the skins)

For sauce

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups milk
  • 1 bay leaf (not California–this is in the original instructions, but I used whatever kind I had)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper (again used a little black pepper once)

For assembling lasagne

  • 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)
  • 12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagne (1/2 lb)

 

The details

Butternut squash filling:

  1. Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt, and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Cool filling.
  2. Can make ahead the night before and let sit out to room temp before assembly.

Sauce (make while squash is cooking):

  1. Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk while whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf.
  2. If making ahead, cover surface of sauce with wax paper and let sit out to room temp before assembly.

Assemble lasagne:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Toss cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish (or other shallow 3-quart baking dish) and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one third of filling, then sprinkle with a heaping 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.
  3. Tightly cover baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagne in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Scallops with Almond Gazpacho

July 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

image1
There is a wonderful little restaurant just down the block from our house. It’s close, it’s cozy, and it boasts enough booths that there’s never any need to fight with the neighbors for a prime spot, to say nothing of the ample and well laid-out bar. But laudable though the layout may be, it ain’t got nothing on the scallops with almond gazpacho.

Over the course of many months, I have found myself thinking about this dish constantly. It is on this dish’s account that I have tried to justify semi-weekly visits to said restaurant. It is the stuff dreams are made of. I have, quite literally, dreamt about this dish.

If, for whatever reason, I have yet to make myself clear: Trusty sidekick asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year. I told him that I wanted the proprietors to cough up the recipe, but then, days later, grew impatient and figured it out for myself. You are welcome.

THE STUFF:

(Scallops)
sea scallops- approximately 3 per person
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons olive oil

(Gazpacho)
1 (3-inch-long) piece baguette, crust discarded
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 lb whole maracona almonds (3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon (+) sherry vinegar (“reserva” if available)
1/2 cup mild EVOO
2T ice water
Garnish: 1 handfull seedless green grapes, halved or quartered

The how-to:

Scrape the inside of the baguette (I’ve found a knife works well for this) and discard the crust. Soak the bread insides in 1/2 cup of water for 1 minute. Squeeze dry and discard soaking water. (In the alternative, this tedious task becomes a breeze if you keep baguettes on hand in the freezer. Just saw off an appropriately sized hunk and saw off the crusty bits. You can soak what remains straight away in warm water).

Mash garlic and salt with a mortar and pestle until it resembles a paste. Or give up because it isn’t getting pasty and throw it all in the food processor. Blend garlic/salt mash and almonds in a food processor until smooth. Add bread and 1 tablespoon vinegar (or more, if you’re so inclined. As I am a devoted fan of the sherry vinegar flavor in this dish, I am rather more heavy-handed– I usually end up putting in 2-3T of vinegar, and then sprinkling additional vinegar on the serving plate, for good measure). image2

Create an emulsion by adding oil in a slow stream with the motor running. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time (depending on the texture, I will use 1-2T) until the gazpacho has reached the desired consistency (think a well-whipped hummus).

Refrigerate gazpacho until ready to serve.

While the gazpacho is chilling, prepare the scallops. Remove the side muscle from the scallops, rinse with cold water, dry, and salt and pepper.

Add the butter and oil to a skillet over high heat. When the oil and butter just begin to smoke, CAREFULLY add the scallops to the fat, making sure they do not touch one another. Sear the scallops for 90 seconds on each side. (I will say that this is where kitchen tongs will come in particularly handy, since splashing liquid-laden scallops into a bath of bubbling fat = significant risk of burns of the not-messing-around variety). When the scallops have finished searing, they should have a golden crust on each side of approximately a quarter inch, but should still be translucent in the center.

Smear the gazpacho on a plate and scatter halved grapes about. Plate three scallops per plate atop the gazpacho. Sprinkle with salt and an additional dash or two of vinegar. Serve immediately.

Notes:

1. Gazpacho can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in the fridge, in which case this becomes the world’s quickest dinner to pull together.

2. The almond “gazpacho” is derived from a soup, as the name suggests. If you’re interested in giving that a try, replace the 2T of ice water with 2 cups of ice water and strain the soup through a sieve. Chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours before serving.

3. If you’re not a scallop person, shrimp or a whitefish of your choice will also work quite nicely.