November 22nd, 2015

What a Throwback!

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Right now, I’m sure many of you are forming your Thanksgiving plans–choosing recipes, composing grocery lists, plotting your course to the Thursday feast. I am too; we’ll be driving to DC to spend the holiday with my daughter, son-in-law, and precious grandson. Plenty to be thankful for, in that one sentence alone.

We live in uneasy times. I think we always do–it’s in matters of degrees. The impact of global unrest, of violence, fear, loss and anguish has felt extreme to me of late. We all feel it, its heaviness, its power to constrict. I remind myself to keep an open mind, and even more so, an open heart. We’re all connected, part of a great family living on this planet. An open heart keeps those darker forces at bay, keeps the creative compassionate flow vital and moving between us.

Before I sign off, and wish you all love and peace, I want to share this totally retro recipe.

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It’s similar to Swedish Meatballs, although there’s no nutmeg or allspice in the mix. It’s more of a Stroganoff–the meat seasoned with grainy mustard and Worcestershire. The beefy gravy is folded with sour cream. So 1960s. I can remember my mom making these, serving them in a chafer for festive gatherings with frilly toothpicks. On the flipside, I also remember the ghastly 1970s boxes of Hamburger Helper with a stroganoff version that she would simmer in a skillet for supper.

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I hadn’t thought of them, these meatballs in sour cream, which, despite their “throwback” quality, are really quite delicious. I was reminded of them by a woman in a cooking class that I teach at Magdalene House. We were discussing what we could prepare for our December class, and she asked if we could make them. (potato latkes, too!)

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Why not? Last week, I resurrected my recipe, jazzed the sauce with oyster mushrooms (!) and tested ’em out at our potluck. I served the stroganoff meatballs over a bed of buttered egg noodles.

Woo-hoo! Everyone went crazy, devouring every last one. “What inspired you to make them?” “My parents used to serve these at every party.” “Oh my goodness, I haven’t eaten this in years.”

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The dish is hearty and potent, triggering memory, delivering comfort and taste. Well-worth bringing back—from time to time. You might like to serve a batch at a festive gathering of your own.

Here’s my wish, which is for myself, as much as for you:
As we move into the season of plenty, but also a time of rush and stress, remember to take time for yourself and your loved ones. Savor the moments together. Breathe deeply. Express gratitude. Feel joy. Be light.

Nancy

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MEATBALLS STROGANOFF

The Meatballs
3 pounds ground chuck
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons coarse grain mustard
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 eggs
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, mix and mash everything together until well-incorporated. The beef mixture will feel lighter and have a glossy look when that is achieved.

Form small (as in smaller than a golf ball) meatballs (again using your hands, or a small ice cream scoop) and arrange them on baking sheets.

Place into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove and set aside while you make the sauce.

(After they cool, you could place them into freezer bags and freeze for later use.)

Makes 6 dozen meatballs

Stroganoff Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
8 ounces oyster mushrooms, torn or chopped
1/2 cup cooking sherry
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 quart beef stock
1+ cup sour cream
1 bunch green onions or chives, chopped

Place large pot on medium heat and melt the butter. Saute the onion until translucent, then add the mushrooms. Saute until golden. Add the cooking sherry and stir well. Let the sherry reduce, then add the flour. Stir vigorously to coat the mushrooms and onions.Let the flour gently “cook” for about a minute. Pour in the beef stock, stirring well. Season with salt, coarse ground black pepper. The brown gravy will begin to thicken.

Add the cooked meatballs. Simmer for 5 minutes. Fold in the sour cream, making sure it melds into the gravy. Taste for seasoning. Garnish with chopped green onions or chives.

Serve over a bed of egg noodles.
Serves a crowd–15 or more guests

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Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Casseroles, Meats/Poultry, Pastas, Recipes | 22 Comments »




December 15th, 2014

Great GREENS

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My friend Heather had overbought produce for an event, and found her fridge bursting with 12 bunches of assorted winter greens–curly kale, lacinato kale, and great fronds of Swiss chard. She called me, wondering, what could she do? They were becoming limp, and it would be a shame for them to be fodder for the compost.

We talked about some ideas—making kale pesto and kale chips, blanching and freezing chard, when I said, “I’ll take some off your hands. I’ll make some dishes with them. Then, come to dinner.”

Later that day, she arrived at my door, arms laden with grocery bags, a jumble of green leaves, bright and dark, veined and rumpled, some sturdy and sweeping, some starting to look a bit weary.

Great greens, girl. Gotta get to work.

Before I could figure out their destiny, I had to assess their condition. I trimmed their stems, and plunged them in tubs of fresh water to rehydrate. Within an hour, most of the greens had perked up. The chard plumped and straightened, out of the tub. The rumpled kale regained its bounce.

Now, what to make?

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The thing with greens—any sort really—is that what starts out as monumental quickly cooks down to manageable. Nonetheless, I had enough chard to make a great pot of stewy-soup, and plenty of lacinato kale to make this beguiling recipe I’d just discovered on Food 52.

Both are simple wintertime recipes, hearty and delicious. Most of work is in prepping the greens–cleaning, deribbing, tearing, chopping.

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You begin this soup the way you do most soups: You build a foundation. Saute hunks of portabello mushrooms with diced onions and carrots to get a meaty base before adding vegetable broth and tomato paste. The mushrooms and tomato are the powerhouse duo, making the sienna-colored broth in which the chard simmers a veritable umami-bomb of flavor.

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And this kale gratin? Ridiculously easy. Only 6 ingredients, 3 of them being salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Everything gets tossed into a baking dish and then placed into the oven. That’s it!

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I made two modifications.

The original recipe calls for 3 cups of Cream. I know. So rich, so luxurious, so over-the-top—but I couldn’t bring myself to go there. And, I already had a quart of half-and-half in the fridge. I dialed it back a bit–and substituted the half and half for cream. Instead of placing slabs of sharp cheddar over the top of the casserole, I shredded the cheese–4 ounces each of New York yellow and Vermont white—to generously sprinkle over the mass, the pieces nestling in and around the greens.

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Don’t worry about the tower of kale in your baking dish–it cooks down in that hot oven. Some of the leaves get dry and crispy on the top—and boy, is that ever a boon. (Kale chips!) The cheese, as it bubbles and melts, forms a savory caramel crust too. Scoop through that layer of crunch into this compelling press of green, cooked to tenderness, the kale absorbing the nutmeg-scented dairy in the process–a perfect balance of bitter and sweet.

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I cannot overstate the absolute wonder and earthy delectability of this dish. If it’s this marvelous with half-and-half, the cream version must be Heaven. I just want to be a little mindful of my heart, and not get there too soon.

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SWISS CHARD-PORTABELLO MUSHROOM SOUP
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 pound portabello mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 quart vegetable stock
1 small can tomato paste
2-3 bunches Swiss chard, stemmed, leaves cut into ribbons

Place a 6 quart pot over medium heat. When warm, add the olive oil. Then add the onions, sauteing them until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and continue to stir and saute for another three minutes. Increase the heat to medium high, and add the mushrooms.
Season with salt, black pepper, and thyme. Stir. The mushrooms may stick to the bottom, but don’t worry–that will add to the flavor of the base.

Pour in the vegetable stock. Add the tomato paste and a cup of water. Stir well.
Add the Swiss chard, folding into the broth. It will collapse as it cooks. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for seasonings.

Serve over hot cooked rice.
Makes 10-12 servings

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LACINATO KALE GRATIN adapted from Food 52 and Renee Erickson/A Boat, A Whale, and a Walrus
2-3 bunches lacinato kale (a.k.a. black Tuscan or dinosaur kale)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
3 cups Half-and-Half
1/2 pound shredded sharp cheddar (can be a combination of yellow and white sharps)

Preheat oven to 350 convection or 375 conventional.

Remove the kale ribs and tear the leaves into pieces. Place into a large bowl. Sprinkle the leaves with salt, black pepper and nutmeg and toss. Heap the seasoned kale into a 9 inch by 13 inch baking dish. Pour the half-and-half over the kale, taking care that it doesn’t spill over the sides. Top with shredded cheddar, tucking some of the shreds underneath some leaves.

Place into the oven, middle rack, and bake for 45 minutes (convection) or an hour (conventional)

Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.

Makes 8 servings

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Posted in Casseroles, Gluten Free, Recipes, Soups/Stews, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 15 Comments »




May 12th, 2014

Saltimbocca, sort of

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We all know the trouble with the mind and memory. It isn’t always reliable. Images called up from the past can be hazy. Concepts and techniques once learned can be hard to access. Sometimes, the mind makes up things up. Or, two or three stories will meld into one.

That last memory misfire is what happened when I was trying to figure out what to make mom for her Mother’s Day lunch.

No doubt the pot of blooming sage on my front stoop was the source of inspiration, a recipe came to mind that I hadn’t made in years: Saltimbocca. Italian for “Jump into the mouth,” the traditional Roman roll of prosciutto, fresh sage and pounded veal is so quick and delicious, it can leap from skillet to mouth to satisfy hunger pronto.

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Instead of preparing it with veal, I decided to make the dish with chicken breast–already a veer, albeit an acceptable one, from tradition. Early Sunday morning, I went to the market to get my ingredients. And that’s where things went further off course. There wasn’t any prosciutto, so I chose Black Forest ham. I thought I needed fontina, also not to be found–pickin’s are slim after a busy Saturday at the grocer–so I substituted muenster. I also bought cream, and hurried home.

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Bill observed as I pounded the chicken breasts, arranged the slices of ham, cheese, and pretty sage, and rolled up the fillets and said, “Looks like you’re making Chicken Cordon Bleu.”

This was a remarkable statement, coming from a man who 1) doesn’t cook 2) hasn’t touched fish, meat, or fowl for over 20 years because it was True.

I realized I had fused another recipe, also unmade for years, into this one.

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Today’s recipe is that faulty memory merge of two classic Old World dishes, Saltimbocca and Chicken Cordon Bleu. Maybe I should call it a happy marriage, as the result was simply delicious.

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You see, true Saltimbocca has no cheese in its filling, no cream in its sauce. Roman cooks argue on the point of dredging in flour.

Cordon bleu, (which means “blue ribbon’) gained widespread popularity Stateside in the ’60s. It is anchored in Swiss, not French, cuisine. Cheese (often Gruyere) is paired with ham, rolled inside the chicken, which is dipped in egg, dusted in fine breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. Sage has no place in this dish. A cream-based sauce is often napped over the crunchy roulades.

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But here’s what I like about my fusion: A melty white cheese helps to keep the chicken breast moist, and gives a cushion for the sage and ham. The seasoned flour is a touch more assertive–enhanced beyond the usual S&P, with paprika and granulated garlic. The dredging not only helps hold the roulade together (although a toothpick does the trick, too!) it adds browned bits to the skillet–which, in turn, boost the flavor of the sauce. I will also note that I am not alone in this recipe fusion—check out this appealing array of stuffed chicken breast recipes at Cooking Light.

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You can see how sumptuous the juices look, deglazed in the pan with dry white wine. The small amount of flour dusted on the chicken contributes a bit to the thickening of the sauce—although the reduction of wine and small pour of cream do most of the work. More fresh chopped sage—ah, meraviglioso, merveilleux, wunderbar…

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Yes, you will be happy to have this jump into your mouth.

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BLUE RIBBON CHICKEN SALTIMBOCCA
1 1/4 pounds boneless chicken breast
4 slices prosciutto or thinly sliced deli ham
4 slices fontina, or muenster
8-12 fresh sage leaves

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

Slice the chicken breast into thin (1/4″) scallops. Place each piece between a stretch of plastic wrap and pound to flatten and tenderize.

Arrange a slice of cheese, ham, and sage leaves on top of each chicken cutlet. Roll, and secure with a toothpick if you like.

In a small bowl, mix the flour with the seasonings: salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, paprika.

Dredge the roulades in the seasoned flour, dusting off the excess.
Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. Heat and swirl together.
Place the chicken roulades in to brown, taking care not to crowd the pieces. Brown the chicken for 3 minutes and turn.
Continue browning for another 3-4 minutes. Remove the fully browned pieces and place them into a baking dish. Cover and keep warm.

Return the skillet to the burner, still set on medium, and make the sauce: (recipe follows)
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WHITE WINE CREAM SAUCE
1 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
6 sage leaves, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste

Pour one cup of dry white wine into the skillet and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the pan. Cook and reduce the wine as you continue to deglaze the pan. When the wine is reduced by half (about 5-6 minutes) stir in the heavy cream. Add the chopped sage leaves. Taste for salt and black pepper; adjust as needed.

Pour the sauce over the roulades.

Serves 4.

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Posted in Meats/Poultry, Recipes, Sauces | 20 Comments »




November 14th, 2012

Holiday Sides: tweaking tradition

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Acorn Squash Rings stuffed with Sorghum Apples and Pecans

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Yukon Gold-Sweet Potato Gratin

There’s a thin line to walk at family holiday gatherings, where Traditions and The New intersect. Expectations for the Usual vie for their place at the Thanksgiving table, as does the Desire for Something Different. If you are like me, you would never dream of replacing the roast turkey. Oh, I’ve refined my recipe over the years. And I’ve completely veered away from how I had it prepared, growing up.

Back in the day, my dad was in charge of cooking the turkey. He would cover the entire bird with bacon strips, which would essentially baste it as it roasted. When done, the bacon was practically annealed onto the golden brown skin. He’d cook it early in the day, let it rest before carving, and saunter off to the den to watch a football game.

Crazed with hunger, we kids would sneak into the kitchen, and greedily pick off the bacon strips, which couldn’t help but tear things up. With a piece of bacon came a piece of skin, oops, and then a hunk of meat. By the time the poor turkey reached the table, it was a rather ravaged looking carcass.

Much as we all loved the bacon, no one missed the “bacon-turkey” when I took over the helm of holiday hosting. My replacement, a garlic-sage-butter baste (slathered under the turkey skin) is much-loved, and arrives like a showpiece on the table.

But, no turkey? Unthinkable! There would upheaval, shouts of betrayal, dejection.

However, times change; diets and tastes change.
When you want to introduce something really new, that’s where the side dishes come in.

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When our Third Thursday Community Potluck meets in November, it is a serendipitous convenience that it is held exactly one week before Thanksgiving. (always the fourth Thursday!) Our guests come bearing a bounty of intriguing dishes, ideal for holiday serving. I’m sharing two favorites with you today, for your consideration. Both are vegetarian and gluten-free, one is suitable for vegans. Bearing in mind shifting dietary needs, these are sure to please everyone.

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The first dish combines Yukon Gold potatoes and sweet potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced, and layered in a gratin. I love the random look of the overlapping orange and yellow discs. And, grating fresh nutmeg over each layer imparts a subtle spicy note.

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The liquid in which these potatoes cook is half-and-half infused with shallots, chives, and flat leaf parsley. Shredded Gruyere cheese enrichens the dish, beautifully melting throughout the layers. If you can locate Comte, an artisanal French cheese that is possibly better than Gruyere, I recommend it.

The layers meld as they bake, but the naturally (and barely) sweet tastes of both potatoes shine through.

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YUKON GOLD-SWEET POTATO-GRATIN

4-5 tablespoons butter, softened
2 shallots, diced
2 cups half-and-half
2 heaping tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped
1 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
whole nutmeg for finely grating
1 ½ lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, cleaned
1 ½ lbs. sweet potatoes, cleaned
1 ½ cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
¼ cup grated Parmegianno-Regianno

13 inch x9 inch deep baking dish

Using one tablespoon of the butter, coat the baking dish.

In a saucepan on medium heat, saute the shallots in three tablespoons butter until translucent. Add the half-and-half, parsley, chives, salt, and white pepper. Stir well until warmed. Remove from heat.

Peel Yukon gold and sweet potatoes. Slice very thin (1/8 inch) and layer the bottom of the baking dish in overlapping circles. It’s fine to layer them randomly—a few slices of one potatoes, followed by the other. Grate some fresh nutmeg over the slices.

Stir and cover with a thin layer of seasoned half-and half. Sprinkle with ½ cup Gruyere. Repeat with another layer of sliced potatoes, arranged in similar fashion. Follow with grated nutmeg. Cover again with more liquid, followed by Gruyere. Press down with the back of a wooden spoon to make sure the liquid seeping through all the overlapping slices.

Finish with final of sliced potatoes, half-and-half, remaining cheeses. Dot the top with remaining butter.

Cover with aluminum foil and baking in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Uncover and finish baking for another 15-20 minutes, until casserole is browned, and potatoes feel tender when pierced.

Serves 10-12

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The acorn squash rings make a pretty presentation, and couldn’t be simpler to make. Here in the South, we love sorghum, which adds a mineral sweetness to the apple stuffing. But other syrups would work just as readily. Maple syrup would be a terrific choice.

Apples and winter squashes always pair well. Choose a firm, tart apple, like Granny Smith or Jonathan or Ginger Gold. Pecan pieces and diced shallots are folded with apples, the pecans become toasted in the bake.

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

If you are traveling, travel safely. Enjoy one another’s company, and dine well.

We are headed for DC to be with my daughter and son-in-law, and I plan to stay until my grandbaby is born! Stay tuned. We are full of excitement and gratitude.

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ACORN SQUASH RINGS STUFFED WITH SORGHUM APPLES AND PECANS (vegan)

2 large acorn squashes
2 large baking apples, such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Gingergold
2/3 cup chopped shallots
2/3 cup pecan pieces
¼ cup sorghum
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
olive oil—for brushing squash rings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice squashes into rings, almost an inch in thickness. Depending on the size of the squash, you can get 5-6 rings from each one. Scoop out the seeds, and lay the rings on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the rings with olive oil.

Wash, core and dice apples into ½ inch chunks. Place into a bowl. Add shallots, pecan pieces, sorghum, salt and black pepper. Toss, so that all the pieces are coated with the sorghum.

Mound sorghum apple mixture into the center of each ring.

Bake for 25 minutes.
Makes 10-12 rings

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Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 27 Comments »




December 29th, 2011

A Fine Beginning and Ending: Winter Salad and Trifle

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This is the composed salad that we serve every Christmas Eve. Tradition!

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This is the Chocolate Mousse Trifle that we served this Christmas Eve–destined to become a tradition.

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Hello Friends,

I hope that your holidays have been merry, and that good things loom on your horizon in the new year. As we make our exit from 2011, a bit of a roller coaster year in our household, I’ve been thinking about cycles: beginnings and endings. There’s a life to everything–relationships, jobs, homes—and when one cycle ends, it lays the foundation for a new, often better cycle. In the meantime, there’s that odd place “in between” where one cycle is ending and the other has yet to take hold. Uncertainty can be uncomfortable. It’s a great life lesson, likely to repeated again and again, recognizing endings, forging new beginnings, and surrendering to What Is, in the moment.

I don’t mean to wax all philosophical–this is, after all, a food blog. But we all experience changes–big and small—and life filters into the world of food! Bill recently had a health scare, potential cancer, and he lost his job of 23 years. That he learned both things side-by-side one recent afternoon (“You are cancer-free” from his doctor, post-biopsy, to “We need to discuss your departure date” in a voice message from his manager.) puts a stark perspective on what is really important, what is indeed a blessing.

With big change inevitable in 2012, I know that we’ll all land on our feet–just like our new cat, Sid. In the meantime, I’m sharing two recipes from our holiday dinner, a great beginning: Composed Winter Salad with Brown Sugar Vinaigrette and an amazing ending: Chocolate Mousse Trifle.

Come the new year, I’ll still be cooking, blogging, and staying connected. Always good things in the kitchen and the garden!

Best wishes to you all. As always, thank you for visiting Good Food Matters.

Nancy

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CHOCOLATE MOUSSE TRIFLE

12 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate
6 T. Strong Coffee
2 T. Vanilla
2 T. Creme de Cacao
2 T. Creme de Cassis
2 sticks Unsalted Butter, softened, cut into pieces
8 Eggs, separated
1/2 cup Sugar

1 package Savoiardi (firm Italian ladyfingers)
Heady Dipping Liquid: 1/2 c. Strong Coffee, 2 t. Vanilla, 4 T. Rum

Whipped Topping Garnishes:
2 cups Heavy Cream, divided
1/2 c. Confectioner’s Sugar, divided
1 T. Vanilla
2 T. Cocoa Powder

In a heavy 2 qt. saucepan under low heat, melt the chocolate and coffee together.
Whisk in the vanilla and liqueurs. Then, stir in the butter, one chunk at a time, until it becomes smooth and shiny. Remove from heat.
Using an electric mixer with a balloon whisk, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until the yolks become really pale yellow and thickened, almost triple in volume. This will take several (at least 5) minutes. The yolks will cling to the whisk.
Check your chocolate mixture; it should be warm, but not hot.
Beat it into the thickened egg yolks; the mixture will seem like chocolate mayonnaise.
Pour this into another large mixing bowl.
Clean and dry your mixer bowl and whisk. Beat the egg whites until stiff and glossy. Fold about ¼ of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites.

Select a pretty glass bowl. One by one, dip the ladyfingers into the coffee-rum mixture and line the bottom of the bowl. Spoon in a layer of mousse. Repeat with another layer of dipped ladyfingers, then more mousse until bowl is filled.

Whip one cup of cream with vanilla and 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar. Set aside. Whip remaining cup with 2 T. cocoa powder and 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar.

Smooth the vanilla whipped cream over the top of the trifle. Pipe rosettes with the cocoa whipped cream. Garnish with chocolate shavings, chopped toffee, hazelnuts, or berries, if desired.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Serves a crowd! (12-16 servings)

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FESTIVE WINTER SALAD
Citrus Fruits: Clementines and Ruby Grapefruit
Strawberries
Avocado
Marcona Almonds
Maytag Blue Cheese
Assorted Lettuces

Brown Sugar Vinaigrette

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BROWN SUGAR VINAIGRETTE
(aka Southern Sweet-Sour Vinaigrette)
4 T. White Balsamic Vinegar
2 T. Grapefruit Juice
1 t. Celery Seed
1 t. Paprika
1/4 cup Demerara Sugar
1/4 piece of a medium Onion
2 t. Dijon Mustard
1 t. Salt
1/2 t. Black Pepper
1 cup Olive Oil

Place all of ingredients EXCEPT the olive oil into a food processor fitted with a swivel blade. Pulse until the onion is pureed into the mixture. While the processor is running, pour in the olive oil slowly. It will incorporate nicely into the vinaigrette. The dijon will keep the dressing emulsified.

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Sid is living the good life!

Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes, Salads | 23 Comments »




November 1st, 2011

The Sides Have It

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The first of November! The lure of the Feast!

A couple of years ago, Kim Severson and Julia Moskin, food writers at the New York Times, staged a battle: Turkey vs. Sides. Which brought more happiness to the Thanksgiving table, the noble bird or its myriad accompaniments?

Now I ‘m not one to take sides; I want ’em all. One is incomplete without the others. But, if pressed to choose, I must say that I’d rather have a table full of exciting side dishes than a roast turkey. And, for the vegetarian in our household, there’s no contest. The sides have it.

With the onset of each holiday season, I know that there will be constants–certain beloved dishes that appear during this time, and vanish until the next. (Like Cornbread Dressing. Cranberry-Walnut Relish. Pumpkin Pie. )

But I like change. With side dishes, those supporting players to the Big Feast, there’s the opportunity to introduce variety. It’s good to bring something new to the table, while still upholding treasured traditions.

Today I’m sharing two terrific side dishes that I made recently for our potluck. I want to put them out there early, for your consideration. Both use lesser known, seasonal ingredients. Either would bring happiness to the holiday table.

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First up: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Pear, Shallots, Sage, and Hazelnuts. I have Gigi to thank for this one. Adding Red Pear to the mix is pure inspiration, a wonderful flavor balance, and color-wise, a true holiday beauty.

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I’ve roasted and sauteed everything in olive oil. You could make this with butter–which would become brown butter—and I wouldn’t blame you for that. Brown butter!

But, the shallots, toasty hazelnuts, sage, and fragrant pear bites bring a rich harmony of flavors to the brussels, in a more healthful way.

I know what you’re thinking. For a long time, I wasn’t crazy about brussels sprouts either. This dish could change your mind. Even those who usually turn their noses up at the very thought of “little cabbages” relished the savory-sweet combination.

Next up: Roasted Baby Yukon Potatoes, Harukei Turnips, and Thyme

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It’s been a while since I’ve written about these remarkable turnips that Tally grows each year. Petite, white, and earthy-sweet, they defy all my former notions and experiences with the lowly turnip. ( I have bitter, bitter associations with ill-prepared gratins from my youth.)

Harukeis are naturally mild and sweet. Roasting only coaxes that out all the more. And they pair beautifully with potatoes.

When simply roasted in a little olive oil with buttery yukon golds and fresh thyme, the turnips burst with juicy sweetness.

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I first made this dish for the Fretboard Journal Local Farm Feast last month. Another time, I added roasted cauliflower and onions to the batch. This made a very tasty melange, and visually worked as an “all white” vegetable dish.

In the process, I realized that I liked the roasted harukei turnips better than the potatoes. Kind of shocking, I know. I wished I had included more of them in the dish, and fewer spuds. That’s how delicious they are.

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BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH RED PEAR, SHALLOTS, HAZELNUTS, AND SAGE

1 lb. fresh Brussels Sprouts, washed, dried, ends trimmed
1 large Red Pear, firm but ripe–cored (not peeled) and diced medium
2 medium, (or 1 large) Shallots, diced small
1/2 cup chopped Hazelnuts
1 bundle fresh Sage leaves
Olive oil
Salt-n-Peppa

Place brussels sprouts on a baking pan and lightly coat with olive oil.
Season with salt and pepper and place in a preheated 325 degree. Allow to slow roast for about 25 minutes. Outer leaves will get crispy-brown, and the interior will be firm but tender.

In a deep saucepan set on medium heat, saute shallots in olive oil ( 2-3 T) until translucent—about 2 minutes. Stir in hazelnuts and sage leaves and saute a couple of minutes longer. Add diced pear, and gently stir. The pear will break down slightly, and get coated with the shallot-hazelnut mixture.

When the sprouts are roasted, remove from the oven and add to the saucepan. Stir in, combining all the elements well. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

Serves 6-8

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ROASTED BABY YUKON POTATOES, HARUKEI TURNIPS, AND THYME

2 lbs. small Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 bunch Harukei Turnips
several sprigs Fresh Thyme
Olive Oil
Salt-n-Peppa

Because these yukons were small, I was able to roast the turnips and potatoes together. But it is also fine to roast them on separate sheet pans, and then combine, post-roast.

Place turnips and potatoes on a sheet pan, and lightly coat them with olive oil. Season them with salt, black pepper, and the leaves from several sprigs of fresh thyme.

Place in a preheated 375 degree oven and roast for 40 minutes. Check on them, about half-way, shaking them in the pan, and rotating in the oven. Test for doneness.

Serves 8

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Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 27 Comments »




December 16th, 2009

Chutney-stuffed Brie in Puff Pastry, holiday style

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Tick Tick Tick Tick… Counting down to Christmas and Year End…..
Time has accelerated, don’t you think? It always does, this time of year. There’s an energy, positively frenetic, that builds on itself, days spinning out ad delirium as we dart and dash about wrapping up loose ends, wrapping up presents,

wrapping up brie.

What, No Brie Wrapping, you say? And, why not?

It’s so very festive, and much more fun than trying to fit shiny paper in tidy corners around a big box, and tape without tearing, and not misplace the scissors under the mounds of wadded gift wrap, tissue paper, bows, ribbons, and the odd pieces of plastic holly that surround you on the floor. Promise.

Step away from all the trappings of gift wrapping. Consider stashing that book/scarf/bracelet/salad bowl/teddy bear into a shiny bag and mosey on into the kitchen.

Simple elements are involved: a round of brie, a package of puff pastry, some chutney. Any chutney will do, really.
My Of-The-Moment one is Apricot-Cranberry.

Oh, and a sharp knife, and a little confidence in your creativity. You can do this. Free-form works. Abstract works. Childlike wonder works.

(In the days when we were both impoverished hippie artists doing bits of catering-for-cash , my friend Teresa, now a food stylist, and I, now a recovered caterer, decided that bad fine art often made respectable food art. There’s a world of possibilities…)

Meanwhile, here’s a presentation that everyone will tear into—oh melty cheese and chutney—you’ll find yourself surrounded by love and gratitude. And no rumpled gift wrap.

Promise.

split brie 1
Cut the brie across the center

filled brie 2
Spread a generous layer of chutney onto the brie

brie burger
The big brie burger…..

wrapping brie

Cutting the corners at an angle will give you pieces to wrap around the middle. The main idea is to secure the brie in the pastry, giving yourself a nice canvas for your design. I made a wreath, but you could make a sunburst, snowflakes, trees, ornaments, leaves, anything you fancy. Work with pastry that is cold; it cuts better. As it warms, it stretches more readily, and can be twisted, or rolled into balls. You can move the pastry in and out of the refrigerator as you work. It is very forgiving.

pierce brieready to bake brie

Piercing the contours of all your shapes will add dimension while keeping the brie from exploding (!)

Chutney-stuffed Brie in Puff Pastry
1 Box Puff Pastry
cracked black pepper
your favorite chutney (recipe below)
1 round of Brie

parchment
cookie/baking sheet pan

Allow puff pastry to thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Split brie in half and spread one side with chutney. Close up like a sandwich. Place, centered, onto a sheet of puff pastry and sprinkle with pepper. Cut a square of puff pastry and place on top.
Cut the corners of the bottom piece at a diagonal, and wrap around the sides of the brie. Seal edges by gently pinching the dough together. If it won’t stick, moist with a little water.
Flip the brie over so that the bottom is now the top.
Decorate, by cutting or carving shapes with a paring knife and place on the brie.
When your design is set, gently pierce around the shapes with the tip of your knife. This enhances the design AND prevents the brie from popping and oozing when it bakes and puffs up.

You can wrap and decorate your brie ahead of time–a day or so before serving (I have even frozen them at this point.) Cover in plastic wrap.

Ready to bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes, until pastry is puffed up and golden brown.

Remove and cool slightly. You can dust the top of the pastry with a little paprika or chives. Place on serving tray, decorate with fresh fruits. Enjoy with wine.

Apricot-Cranberry Chutney

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons peeled fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup water
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the garlic and ginger together, stirring over moderate heat for about two minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Turn the heat to low and allow the mixture to cook for another 15-20 minutes as the dried fruits absorb the liquid and thicken. Stir occasionally. Allow to cool to room temperature. Makes 1 ½ cups.

brie on coffeetable

Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Egg/Cheese Dishes, Recipes, Sauces | 10 Comments »




December 7th, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake, cultured whipped cream

pumpkin cheesecake hero overhead

Bill always wants a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Never before, and rarely after the big feast, and yet it is a dessert that he looks forward to eating with gusto. This year, in a move to enliven tradition, I chose to make this pumpkin treat instead.

While it is a cheesecake, it doesn’t have the same heft, that ponderous commitment to dessert that defines cheesecake. This one has all the spiciness of pumpkin pie, with the cream cheese imparting a nice tang. The gingersnap-pecan crust, simple to make, adds a distinctive crunch.

The best part, however, is the cultured whipped cream. It’s part creme fraiche, part mascarpone, totally divine.

And, one of those happy accidents.

My original intention was to make creme fraiche, but I got started a day late. After stirring in the buttermilk, I waited a bit, and on a whim decided to stir in some fresh clementine juice. (Hurray, the clementines are here!)

Overnight, the mix thickened somewhat, but acquired a more complicated and pleasing flavor–slightly sour, slightly citrus.

It whipped up beautifully, sweetened with a little confectioners sugar, and made a stunning accent on the pumpkin cheesecake.

Verdict: Enjoyed by all. Even Bill approved of the little change-up.

And, while we may or may not see pumpkin in some sweet form until next year, the cultured whipped cream will be showing up with another delectable dessert soon. Very soon.

gingersnap crust

Pumpkin Cheesecake Gingersnap-Pecan crust
12-14 Gingersnaps
1 cup Toasted Pecans
2 T. melted Butter

In a food processor fitted with a swivel blade, pulse the gingersnaps and pecans together. Mix with melted butter in a bowl, and press into a 9″springform pan. Bake for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Remove and cool.

pumpkin cheesecake mix

overn ready pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling
1 lb. cream cheese
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
3/4 cup Sugar
1 lb. pumpkin (one 15 oz. can works)
2 eggs
1 t. Vanilla
1 t. Ginger
1 t. Nutmeg
1/2 t. Cinnamon
1/2 t. ground Cloves
1/4 t. Salt
a pinch or 2 White Pepper

In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugars with the cream cheese. (I used a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the whisk attachment.) When smooth, add the pumpkin and continue mixing. Then add the eggs, vanilla, and all the spices. Whip until smooth and fluffy.

Pour into springform pan and place in the center of a 350 degree oven. Fill a baking dish with water and set on the rack underneath the cheesecake.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until knife comes clean. Cool, then refrigerate.

Decorate with cultured whipped cream and pecans before serving.

Serves 12 or more.

another p-cheescake

cultured whipped cream

Cultured Whipped Cream
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Tablespoon Buttermilk
1 Tablespoon Clementine Juice (or orange/tangerine)

4 Tablespoons Confectioners Sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla

Pour heavy cream into a glass bowl and stir in the buttermilk. Let this sit out for about an hour, and occasionally give it a stir.
Then, stir in the clementine (or whatever citrus you fancy) juice.
Again, let this sit out for an hour or so, stirring occasionally.

Refrigerate overnight.

Before serving: Whip the cultured cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla.

Pipe or dollop onto the pumpkin cheesecake.

vertical pumpkin slice

Posted in Desserts, Recipes | 10 Comments »




December 27th, 2008

Smokin’ Bird

When I got word on the 23rd that the number of guests attending our Christmas Eve food and gift-giving frenzy was swelling, I realized that I had to augment my game plan. I could make more of everything—the idea of which made me cringe—
or I could add one more menu item.

But what?
With beef tenderloin, stuffed shells, and sundry vegetable side dishes on the menu, stovetop and oven space were at a premium.

A-ha! Time to commandeer my trusty Big Green Egg, and smoke a turkey.

We tend to relegate outdoor cooking to warm weather months, but it’s just as fine in winter. For the most part, you can put bird or beast in the smoker and forget about it while you tend to the rest of the meal prep. (All afternoon this past Christmas Eve in Nashville it rained heavily—and at a slant—but my egg chugged right along!)

The key is having time—at least overnight—for brining.

Sherry and locally produced sorghum add a rich, sweet layer to this brine.
Out of deference to my brother, whose lips swell to Bozo proportions if they touch anything capsicum, I eliminated the otherwise delightful couple of glugs of Louisiana Hot Sauce.

For one 12 lb. fresh turkey, use a container large enough to submerge the bird in about
1 ½ gallons water and the following:

The Brine
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup Sorghum
1 cup sherry
1 onion, quartered
1 orange, quartered
1 apple, quartered
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 Tablespoon cracked black pepper

Submerge the turkey in the brine and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, stoke the smoker; bring temperature up to 250 degrees.
Remove bird from brine. Rinse off, drain, and pat dry.
Place turkey inside, breast up, and lower lid.
After 3 hours, flip the turkey over to brown the breast.
Total smoking time: 4 ½ -5 hours

Serves 20

Caterer’s Tips: Turkey prepared this way is juicy and flavorful and doesn’t need any embellishments.
But a honey-dijon sauce, or a pear chutney, is a welcome condiment, especially when spread on rolls for little smoked turkey sandwiches the next day.

Posted in Meats/Poultry, Recipes | 4 Comments »