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.
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A Holiday treat: Herb-crusted Beef Tenderloin

December 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

My mom has always wanted to make a crown roast and so for our post-Christmas family get together we decided we wanted to make a special dish. After quickly figuring out that a crown roast was just typically pork or lamb and that the beef version is a standing rib roast, we decided to shift our plans. We had a good bit of pork already over the holidays and the standing rib roast just didn’t seem to have the appeal of the full crown.

After a quick look around, we quickly settled on this Cook’s Country recipe (slightly adapted) for an herb-crusted beef tenderloin from a local DE butcher. As a bonus, It immediately made me think of team member B, as a trip back to Minneapolis from a family visit to WI could often be accompanied by beef tenderloin since it tends to be cheaper across that border. I, on the other hand, had never cooked this fairly pricey cut of meat and was a little nervous. However this recipe is super easy, no stress, and so tasty. The crisp herb crust with the parmesan was a nice counter to the perfectly tender beef and just added the perfect level of flavor. It really is a great, yet easy, dish for a special meal.

IMG_4712

The stuff

1 whole beef tenderloin (4-6 lbs, trimmed, tied–tail under the roast–and patted dry)

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp freshly ground pepper

2 tsp sugar

1/2 cup panko

2 tsp and 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 1/4 cups Grated Parmesan cheese (divided into 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup)

6 tbsp of olive oil (divided into 2 and 4 tbsp)

4 garlic cloves minced (optional if you’re cooking for people who can’t do garlic)

The steps

Make sure to give yourself enough time. The meat needs to sit at room temp for 2 hours prior to going into the oven, cook for ~40-50 minutes), then rest for 20-30 minutes. 

1. Make sure the tenderloin in prepped. The tail tucked under and tied and the roast patted dry.

2. Combine the 1 tbsp of salt, 1 tbsp of pepper and 2 tbsp of sugar in a small bowl. Rub this mixture all over the tenderloin.

3. Transfer tenderloin to a wire rack set over a baking sheet and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

4. While the meat is resting make the 2 rubs. In a small bowl toss the bread crumbs with 2 tsp thyme, 2 tbsp parsley, 1/2 cup parmesan and 2 tbsp oil until thoroughly combined.

5. In a separate bowl mix the remaining 2 tbsp thyme, 6 tbsp parsley, 3/4 cup parmesan, garlic and 4 tbsp of oil until it’s a nice smooth paste (this can be done in a food processor if desired).

6. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and pre-heat to 400 degrees.

7. Roast tenderloin for 20 minutes, remove from the oven. Cut and remove the twine from the roast.

8. Coat tenderloin with the herb paste all over the top and a little on the sides, followed by the bread crumb mixture.

9. Roast until the thickest part registers to 130 degrees (for medium rare) and the topping is golden brown (20-30 minutes). Tent loosely if topping gets too brown before the meat is ready.

10. Make sure to let the roast rest, uncovered on the wire rack for 20-30 minutes.

11. Transfer to cutting board, slice and impress your dinner guests!

Easy Beef and Potato Stew (Seriously easy and seriously beefy)

October 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is now the go to slow cooker beef stew recipe I’ve been making lately. Now that Fall is here, it’s certainly going to be part of the regular rotation. It really is quite beefy, so head to Sam’s or Costco to get the large portion of meat. The recipe is derived from the ATK slow cooker easy prep cookbook, which has been a great resource for crockpot cooking. Basically I added a few more herbs and carrots to the recipe. Unfortunately I have no good pictures of the stew, because stew generally does not photo well, but it sure tastes yummy!

The Stuff

2 10.5 oz cans of condensed French onion soup

1 cup water

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 1/2 tablespoons instant tapioca

1-2 tsp dried thyme

1-2 tsp dried, crushed rosemary

2 pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in half

3-4 carrots, cut in large chunks

4 pounds (yes, 4!, but 3 works too) stew meat in 1 1/2 inch pieces (or use sirloin steak tips)

salt and pepper to taste (shouldn’t need much salt)

2 cups of frozen peas (gets added at the end of the cooking process)

The details

1. Whisk soup, water, tomato paste, tapioca and herbs together in the slow cooker.

2. Stir in potatoes and carrots.

3. Season beef with a little salt and pepper, and stir into slow cooker. There is enough liquid but add up to another 1/2 cup if desired.

4. Cover and cook until beef is tender. 9-10 hours on low or 6-7 hours on high.

5. Skim excess fat from surface of the stew. Stir in the peas and let sit until heated through (5-10 minutes while some bread is heating in the oven perhaps).

6. Adjust consistency of the stew with extra hot broth if needed. Season with a little pepper (and/or salt) if needed. And eat it up. Leftovers also freeze fairly well.

Samosas (re-creating a long time accompaniment to our tikka dinners)

July 17, 2014 § 1 Comment

So for a dinner gathering, the task at hand was to bring a side dish to go along with curry. I was assuming rice was already included, so I needed to stay away from grain options. Basically at a loss with what to make, I thought of the samosa’s that we used to have, quite a bit ago now, with tikka (i.e. this one that’s still my favorite go to recipe) while watching project runway or just hanging out.

Basically I used an Emeril recipe as a general guide for the filling, the one pictured for how to bake them (because I really didn’t want to mess with oil and frying), and then an epicurious one for the Cilantro Mint Chutney/sauce that was super easy and really did add a nice dimension to the finished product. Though I made tweaks and changed to each bit, so I can say this is my own creation well enough.

I’ve got to say they turned out pretty darn well.

ZA0106_Baked-Samosas-with-Mint-Chutney_s4x3.jpg.rend.sni12col.landscape(Of course I neglected to take a picture, this one is from the Food Network recipe that I used as a guide for the baking instructions, but not really anything else).

 

The stuff

Samosa filling

2 large russet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2-1 cup frozen peas, left out to thaw

1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil (our oil of choice at the moment) or whatever you want to use–ghee I think would be more traditional and I think you can find it at Trader Joe’s if you feel the need

1/2 cup minced/finely diced onion

2 carrots, chopped into tiny cubes

2-3 teaspoons fresh minced ginger

2-3 minced/grated cloves of garlic

2 minced serrano chile peppers (or your choice pepper)

1 heaping teaspoon of ground coriander

1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of garam masala (or a little more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

1/8 teaspoon cayenne (to taste)

1 teaspoon salt

Either ~2 tablespoons of Chutney (see below) or 1 tablespoons chopped cilantro and 2 teaspoons lemon juice

 

Cilantro-Mint Sauce

2 cups packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

1 cup packed fresh mint

1/2 cup roughly chopped white onion

1/3 cup water

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon minced chile (like a bit of a serrano chile), or to taste

1-2 teaspoons of grated ginger (optional, to taste)

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)

 

Crust/dough

1 package of puff pastry dough (e.g. Pepperidge farm) containing 2 sheets) made about 18, though it could make up to 24 I think.

Thawed and rolled out a little bit.

I cut each of the three sections of a sheet into 3 pieces. If you roll out the dough a little bit, then I think you can cut each section into 4 pieces. I don’t think this would be a bad idea as it would possible have a slightly better filling to dough ratio.

This filling probably makes enough to make easily 30-40 (enough to use 3-4 sheets of puff pastry). So I froze the leftover filling to throw in a curry or to make more samosas later.

 

The plan

Filling

1. Boil potatoes until just tender. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large saute pan or skillet and heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots and ginger, and cook, stirring, until starting to caramelize, about 5-8 minutes.

3. Add the garlic, chile peppers, garam masala, salt, turmeric, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds.

4. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring until the potatoes start to color and become dry, about 3-5 minutes. Add the peas and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

5. Remove from the heat and add the chutney or the cilantro and lemon juice. Stir to combine, then adjust the seasoning, to taste. Let sit until cool enough to handle.

6.  Thaw the puff pastry dough and rolled out a little bit. I cut each of the three sections of a sheet into 3 pieces. If you roll out the dough a little bit, then I think you can cut each section into 4 pieces. I don’t think this would be a bad idea as it would possibly have a slightly better filling to dough ratio.

7. You can do lots of fancy things to stuff the samosas so that they look more like traditional ones. I just did a basic thing and made them like a mini-turnover of sorts. Put about a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center. Spread a little water along the edges of the dough and folded it over. Seal using a fork.

8. Arrange the samosas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

9. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and 1 teaspoon water with a fork until thoroughly combined. Brush the tops of the samosas with the egg wash.

10. Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then turn heat down to 375 and bake for 10 more minutes. You can flip them over just before you turn the heat down, if you like. We did and they were nicely golden brown on all sides.

11. Serve warm with the chutney/sauce and eat them up!

The chutney

Puree all of the ingredients, listed. Adjust seasonings. Serve along side the warm samosas.

 

 

Chicken tikka II and *perfect* rice cooker basmati rice

December 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

Sometimes you just NEED a curry, amiright?  This recipe is only slightly adapted from one shared with me by a friend from grad school, and it is fab.  While we’re all fans of the Cook’s Illustrated version,  this one is my new (rediscovered) favorite.  I think the critical difference is the sauce, which requires making an onion puree, which really elevates the flavor of the sauce (my favorite part of the dish, obvs).  I also included a recently discovered, foolproof way to make perfect basmati rice (fluffy, not sticky) in a small rice cooker!

Chicken Tikka Masala II

Ingredients

For the chicken marinade:

  • 1 lb boneless chicken tenders (or slice up a chicken breast)
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt (I use greek)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 2 in fresh ginger, finely chopped (I used jarred stuff, and use 2 tsp)

For the sauce –

  • vegetable oil – couple tablespoons
  • cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup of onion puree (about 1 medium onion, or 2 small onions blitzed in a food processor). NOTE:  if you have a giant onion, by all means puree it, but don’t use more than a cup of the puree.  I made this mistake once and used a mutant onion that yielded 2 cups of onion puree and it totally overwhelmed the taste of the sauce).
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala (or more if you really like it, like me)
  • 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Marinate the chicken in minced garlic, ginger, diced onions, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, garam masala, and yogurt.  Marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight (heard that a few days makes it extra delicious, but who plans that far ahead? I always do overnight.)
  2. Bake marinated chicken at 350° for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.
  3. Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a skillet, enough so the oil covers the bottom of the pan. Add a cinnamon stick and cook until it starts to unfurl.  [I’ve skipped this step before]
  4. Add pureed onion (watch out, there could be splattering).  Cook until the onion turns translucent (about 5 minutes).
  5. Add the fresh cilantro, cumin, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper and turmeric.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add tomato sauce.  Heat until oil and tomatoes separate, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add cream and salt.  When adding the cream, add about a quarter cup at a time.  Stir well and check the color of the sauce. Stop adding cream when the sauce is between a bright orange and peach (or tastes how you want!).  NOTE: The salt helps balance the flavor  of the cayenne pepper.  If you accidentally added too much pepper, try adding a bit more salt to get the blend right.
  7. Simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the baked chicken to the sauce and cook until chicken is cooked, about 10 minutes.  Garnish with more fresh cilantro leaves and serve with perfect basmati rice.

Perfect basmati rice, made in a rice cooker

I used this method for the first time this weekend and it was perfect.  No burned rice, evenly cooked, and more important, fluffy not sticky.

  1. Use a ratio of 1 part basmati rice to 1.5 parts water (I used 2 cups rice, 3 cups water).
  2. Rinse the rise thoroughly – I run it under water for about 30-45 seconds.
  3. Add rice to rice cooker, add water, stir.
  4. Add a swirl of olive oil (perhaps 1-2 tsp?)
  5. Start rice cooker and let it do its thing.
  6. Once rice is cooked, let sit in rice cooker – without touching it – for 10 minutes.  Then fluff with a fork and serve.

Crockpot: southwest chicken

December 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

All hail the trusty workhorse of the kitchen: ye olde crockpot.  To continue with the crockpot recipe trend, I submit my own: this is pretty much the only thing I bust out the crockpot for, and it’s really good.  And dare I say, healthy?  Obviously once you put in on white rice and add cheddar and sour cream things change a bit, but as is (e.g., if you ate it alone as a very hearty stew) it’s pretty much fat free, high protein, and low calorie.

Ingredients (adapted from budgetbytes.com, a really great website)

  • 1 lb chicken breasts (frozen or thawed – if frozen, I chuck them in frozen and everything is cooked well within 4 hours on high, or 6-8 hours on low)
  • 1 entire 16 oz jar of your favorite salsa (this is one of the biggest contributions to flavor, so make sure you like it)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 8 oz frozen corn (usually this is half a bag)
  • 1 big clove minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder (I do a heaping Tbsp)
  • 1/2 Tbsp cumin (again, heaping)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano (heaping… I like spices!)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup water (I start with 1/4, but usually end up adding more if it’s looking dry towards the end)

Directions

  1. Put chicken in the bottom of the crockpot
  2. Unceremoniously chuck everything else on top.
  3. Stir so chicken is covered by wet stuff.
  4. Put on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 4.
It's not pretty, but it's tasty!

It’s not elegant, but it’s tasty after a couple hours!

Eat by itself, or on top of rice accompanied with cheddar, sour cream, cilantro… yum!

‘Tis the season…for PUMPKIN Bread!

October 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

It’s no surprise or new information that I love all things pumpkin spice related (including it’s close relative garam masala), mostly driven by my love of cinnamon. It’s made all the better when actual pumpkin is involved, especially when you can taste the pumpkin. What’s the point of having it in there if it doesn’t taste like pumpkin?

That brings me to the first post that I get to contribute in far too long for no good reason. Perhaps I haven’t found made any new recipes quite as delicious lately, although I say it’s mostly a lazy factor. Anyway. The recipe. I received it from my regular e-mails through ATK, which remind me of all the recipes sitting in my copies of the magazine that I have yet to try but should. This one comes from ATK September 2012. I did decide to add in allspice to the mix, and I do say I’m going to suggest that the spices get bumped up a notch, and so I’m adjusting amounts by putting a range (the upper limit not being directly tested yet. Season according to your taste. I didn’t add nuts because Nick is against nuts in bread/cake products, nor did I add chocolate though I wanted to in at least one of the loaves (I apparently ate all the chocolate in the house already…). Also important note when planning to make this super awesome pumpkin loaf, it makes 2 loaves! It is incredibly moist (and perfectly cooked), and has stayed that way for 3 days, as that’s as long as the 2nd loaf will last. Enjoy!

The stuff

Topping

5 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon softened, unsalted butter

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt

 

Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

0-1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar

1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 ounces cream cheese (I used light), cut into 12 pieces

4 large eggs

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine (optional)

1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

 

The plan of attack

FOR THE TOPPING: Using fingers, mix all ingredients together in bowl until well combined and topping resembles wet sand; set aside.

FOR THE BREAD:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda together in bowl.

3. Combine pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 11/2 cups, 6 to 8 minutes.

4. Remove pot from heat; stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until no visible pieces of cream cheese remain and mixture is homogeneous.

5. Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add egg mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine.

6. Fold flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until combined (some small lumps of flour are OK).

7. Fold walnuts & chocolate into batter if desired.

8. Scrape batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle topping evenly over top of each loaf. Bake until skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes (if using a 9 x 5 loaf pan check at 40 minutes).

9. Let breads cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove breads from pans and let cool for at least 11/2 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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