November 20, 2017

Romanesco Salad with Ground Cherries, Prosciutto & Gorgonzola


1 head romanesco, cut into florets
1-pint ground cherries* (also known as Cape gooseberries or golden berries), halved
1 oz sliced Prosciutto, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 red onion, cut into thin half moons
1 Spanish black radish, cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola

1 tablespoon Dijon
2 1/2 tablespoons Proccesco vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Steam the romanesco until just softened. Drain and run under cool water to cool completely. Place in a large bowl. Add remaining salad ingredients. Toss.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Drizzle over the vegetables, toss to coat.

*I bought these at Wegmans for a surprisingly affordable $2.49/pint (3 oz). They were labeled as "goldenberries" and were sold under the Melissa's produce label. I've also seen them in farmers markets as "ground cherries", they look like yellow cherry tomatoes and are in a husk like tomatillos. To me, they taste a bit like kiwi.
My thoughts:

This dish takes its inspiration from the popular broccoli salad that is such a crowd pleaser at get-togethers. Since Thanksgiving is this week, I thought I'd fancy it up a bit. I used broccoli cousin romanesco (in season now) instead of broccoli, ground cherries instead of dried cranberries--they have a similar sweet-tart flavor profile, blue cheese because it had to stand up to the strong flavors and in-season Spanish black radish (regular red radish would do in a pinch) for crunch, and Prosciutto instead of bacon. Romesco has a nice crisp flavor and firm texture and looks like a punk rock cross between broccoli and cauliflower. It holds up really well in cold salads. This salad is a bit sharp and pungent tasting but not bitter--one of my favorite attributes in a salad. The perfect contrast to the buttery, creamy, cheesy dishes that grace the holiday table. Bonus: it can be dressed and ready to go hours before serving.

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November 17, 2017

Bacon Pepper Jack Cauliflower Casserole


1 medium head cauliflower,  lightly steamed and cut into florets (about 2 cups)
8 oz brick pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 pieces cooked, thick cut bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 1 1/2-quart baking pan. Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer in the baking dish.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in the pan. Add the flour and spices. Whisk until it forms a paste, about 1 minute. Pour in the milk. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add the cheese and whisk until thickened, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the scallions, bacon, and parsley. Pour over cauliflower. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I've been doing a lot of shopping at Aldi lately (shameless plug for my Aldi fan blog here) and while their produce section is small they always have freakishly good looking cauliflower. Plus it is much cheaper there than at the regular supermarket so I've been making and eating a lot of cauliflower lately. I've always liked it but spending $4 for a head of cauliflower when it is a vegetable that needs a lot of work to jazz it up (who eats plain steamed cauliflower? no one I'd want to know) was never very appealing to me. Now that I have a cheaper source, I've been making it in a billion different ways.

This recipe turns cauliflower into a holiday-worthy, indulgent treat. Pepper Jack cheese adds some heat and the parsley and green onions freshen it up. Technically, you could skip the baking step and simply toss it with the cauliflower but those last few minutes in the oven crisps up both the cauliflower and cheese and makes it just that much tastier and satisfying to eat.

I like using a Pepper Jack that is a bit hot (usually Cabot) but a milder Pepper Jack would work as well, for the spice-adverse.

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November 15, 2017

2 Hour Sheet Pan Thanksgiving for Two or Four: Old Bay Turkey Breast, Roasted Root Vegetables and Herbed Stuffing


for the turkey breast:

4 1/4 lb bone-in turkey breast
Old Bay

for the injectable marinade:

2 tablespoons Old Bay
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil

for the roasted vegetables:

1 medium turnip, small dice
1 large Russet potato, medium dice
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2-3 carrots, cut into chunks
2 sprig's worth fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
freshly ground black pepper

for the stuffing:

8 slices potato bread, torn into bite-sized chunks
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 teaspoon crushed sage
1/2 teaspoon crushed rosemary
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup turkey stock

Preheat oven to 400. Place the turkey breast on a small rack (I used one OXO silicone roasting rack) on one end of a rimmed baking sheet aka a half sheet jelly roll pan. Sprinkle with Old Bay.

Meanwhile, whisk together the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Place in the flavor injector using the larger needle. Inject the marinade into several places in the breast. Place in the oven and bake 1 hour.

Meanwhile, toss together the roasted vegetable ingredients in a large bowl. Remove the turkey from the oven and reduce the heat to 350. Arrange the vegetable mixture over 1/2-2/3 of the space remaining on the baking sheet next to the turkey. Return to the oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the onions and celery in a skillet until the onion is translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Then, in a large bowl, mix together the stuffing ingredients until well combined. Form into 4 stuffing balls. After the 30 minutes, arrange them in the remaining empty spot on the baking sheet.

Bake 30 minutes or until the turkey reaches 165 on a meat thermometer.

Allow to rest 10 minutes prior to serving. Slice and serve.

Yield: 2 meals with leftovers, 4 meals with little to no leftovers

My thoughts:
Over the years I have done so many versions of Thanksgiving meals. I've done everything from pomegranate-themed to Hawaiian (complete with Pineapple-infused Turkey and Spam-Hawaiian Bread Stuffing) to Polish (with kielbasa-rye stuffing) to Thanksgivukkah and a ton in between! Normally I have a fauxgiving in October to create recipes to share but this year my husband has been busy with school and being a chair in an charitable organization planning its own Thanksgiving event that I couldn't carve out a whole day to devote to Thanksgiving.

I finally had the idea to make a dinner for two! After all, we are a family of two and while I have made a big dinner nearly every one of the last 13 years I've had this blog, we have only made guests once or twice for fauxgiving and instead concentrated on using the leftovers to create dozens of Thanksgiving leftovers recipes. I just didn't have that kind of time this year!

I wasn't sure how to set about doing a Thanksgiving for two but then OXO offered to send me a sheet pan dinner kit and I saw what it included, I knew it was destined to be a sheet pan Thanksgiving. They sent a silicone roasting rack, a meat thermometer (amazingly I didn't have one that worked and normally just roast until the juices run clear and the leg wiggles which doesn't work with a turkey breast) a crazy flavor injector with two different sized needles, a rimmed baking sheet aka a half sheet jelly roll pan and an amazing looking gravy separator that I didn't get to use because the breast was too lean. I'm not being paid by OXO in any way but these items sure did come in handy!

Since I'm a Baltimorean for life, I came up with the idea of doing an Old Bay injected turkey sort of like the Cajun injected turkeys they have in Louisiana but with a Maryland twist. Before my husband moved to Baltimore, he had only used Old Bay on chicken so using it on turkey seemed perfect. It was fun injecting the turkey and the turkey did come out very moist and flavorful so I highly recommend trying it out!

I always make "un-stuffing" for Thanksgiving--my family always put stuffing around the turkey vs in the turkey (we are all very food poisoning-phobic) but never in a separate pan as "dressing". This way the turkey juices flavor the stuffing but it doesn't keep the turkey from coming to the correct temperature. Stuffing balls are perfect for a sheet pan dinner.

Finally, I cooked some root vegetables on the pan. You can vary them if you want, but if you want everything to be done at the same time, you need to pick ones that will cook at the same rate so turnips, carrots and potatoes are the perfect choice. I know turnips aren't too popular here but they should be, they have a nice peppery flavor and high in vitamin C.

This meal easily serves two people with lots of leftovers or four people with little to no leftovers, perfect for a smaller family. Plus it really is done in 2 hours. I did all of the chopping and stuffing making while the turkey was in the oven (though you could cube the vegetables and make the stuffing ahead of time and allow both to come to room temperature before cooking). I did serve it with some cranberry sauce and served it with sauerkraut but that is, of course, up to you.

Check out my Thanksgiving recipes here on Pinterest.
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November 13, 2017

Fennel Potato au Gratin

3 lb Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 small bulb fennel, sliced into 1/4 inch thick half-moons
1 medium onion, sliced into 1/4 inch thick half-moons
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups shredded Gruyère
1 cup shredded Gouda
freshly ground black pepper
fennel fronds, as garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 355. Lightly oil an 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Set aside.

Place the potatoes in a large bowl of cool water. Allow to soak 10-15 minutes. Drain and let air dry.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, saute the fennel, garlic, and onion until the onion is soft and translucent. Do not brown. Add the flour and whisk to coat the vegetables. Add the milk and stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in 1 3/4 cup Gruyère, 3/4 cup Gouda, salt and pepper and cook, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens.

Arrange half of the potatoes in the prepared baking dish. Pour half of the cheese mixture over the potatoes. Top with remaining potatoes. Pour the remaining sauce over the potatoes. Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese and fennel fronds.

Bake, uncovered for 1 hour or until the potatoes are fork-tender and the dish is browned and bubbly*. Allow sitting 5-10 minutes prior to serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

*This dish is very bubbly so you may want to line your oven (I use this oven liner or you could use foil) or place the baking dish on a baking sheet to avoid dripping directly onto the oven.

My thoughts:
I always get asked what is the difference is between au Gratin potatoes and scalloped potatoes. The answer is easy: au Gratin is topped with a sprinkle of  cheese (or bread crumbs) and scalloped is not. I do see a lot of scalloped potato recipes with cheese in them which I think is a reflection of our country's urge to put cheese in and on everything and everywhere. Now I think the names are pretty much used interchangeably but I do tend to use au Gratin as it was originally intended because in my mind, scalloped potatoes are quite different.

I've been shopping at Aldi lately because not only is it cheap, they have a lot of European foods  that are tricky (or costly) to find else where. I was delighted to see that they are now carrying Gruyère and Gouda right next to the usual shredded cheddar and mozzarella and it wasn't even a special sale. Plus I think it was only about $2.50 for 8 oz which is a great deal for both cheeses and I didn't have to shred an unwieldy wheel of Gouda myself. Score! They are both great cheeses to use for au Gratin potatoes because they melt wonderfully, they have distinctive but not overpowering flavors and they seem a little fancier than regular old cheddar. If I am going to go through the hassle of making a cheese sauce and slicing all those potatoes on a Tuesday night I want it to seem special! It also makes the dish holiday-worthy, I think.

This is a rich, creamy dish, I admit but I lightened it up a bit by using 1/3 stock for the liquid rather than 100% milk. I think it adds a bit more flavor to the finished dish and I don't know if I am imagining this but I never have problems with re-heating the dish the next day; the sauce doesn't split at all. I hate when you reheat dishes (even from restaurants!) like this and it gets all oily or clotted looking but that didn't happen with this at all, which is awesome because this recipe makes a ton and you are bound to have some leftovers.

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November 10, 2017

Chicken and Stars Udon Soup

1 7 oz pack refrigerated udon noodles
1 boneless, skinless chicken thigh
1 oz dried king oyster mushrooms
1/2 oz dried cloud ear mushrooms (may be labeled as dried black fungus strips)
1-quart chicken stock
4 clove garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 carrot, cut into stars (use a knife or small cutter)
1 smoked jalapeno, chopped
2 oz fresh spinach
1/2 cup chopped scallion
shichimi togarashi

Discard the flavor pack from the noodles if there is one. Rehydrate the mushrooms according to package instructions. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring the stock, chicken, garlic, jalapeno, ginger, half of the scallions, and carrot to a boil. Cook until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken. Slice the chicken into 1/4 inch thick strips, return to the pot. Add the noodles, mushrooms (with or without hydrating liquid) and spinach. Stir until the noodles are fully cooked and the spinach is wilted. Ladle into two bowls, top with remaining scallion and shichimi togarashi to taste. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
We both were a little sniffly this past weekend and I thought some yummy chicken soup was in order.

My inspiration for this was a childhood favorite: chicken and stars soup! In this version, the noodles are udon rather than star shaped but I took a minute to cut my carrots into star shapes using a star-shaped corer I bought years ago (small cutters work well too--or if you have good knife skills-go at it!) at an after holiday sale. I then added some mushrooms we had on hand and lots of ginger and shichimi togarashi to help clear out our noses! The result was a comforting, healthy soup that was ready in under 30 minutes.

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November 08, 2017

Green Tomato Chili Pie Topped with Chipotle Cotija Cornbread


cornbread layer:
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup finely crumbled Cotija cheese
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle
1 egg

meat mixture:

1 lb 85% lean ground beef
8 oz canned Mexican style hot tomato sauce*
2 cups small dice green (UNRIPE) tomatoes
15 oz kidney beans, drained
1 onion, chopped
1 smoked jalapeno, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Preheat oven to 400. Spray or grease an 8x8 baking dish.

For the cornbread layer: In a medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and spices. Beat in the egg, cheese, milk, and oil until well combined. Set aside.

For the meat mixture:

In a large skillet, heat a small amount of oil, then saute onion, pepper, garlic, green tomatoes until the onions soften. Add beef and sauté until the beef is cooked through. Stir in sauce and spices. Cook about 5 minutes or until the entire mixture is cooked though and the majority of the liquid has evaporated. Spread evenly into the prepared dish. The mixture should fill the majority of the pan, but don't worry, the batter will fit.

Spoon the batter evenly over the chili mixture to cover completely. Smooth with the back of a spoon or spatula.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Slice into squares and serve.

*I bought this at Aldi but I am sure it is the same as what is sold by El Pato in Mexican and large well-stocked grocery stores. If you can't find it, sub in 1 can plain tomato sauce and increase the spices to taste.

My thoughts:
I almost didn't post this now but it was so good, I had to! A lot of green tomatoes are for springy, summery dishes because green tomatoes are unripe tomatoes and well, that is the start of tomato season. Personally, I would never pick a green tomato because I love red tomatoes so much so I wait until fall to eat green tomatoes unless one falls off the vine. They are much firmer than ripe tomatoes but they cook up well.

The most popular green tomato recipe seems to be fried (thanks Fanny Flagg) but I think they are good in other ways too. We haven't had a frost yet and my parents left on a long cruise last week leaving them with tons of green tomatoes on the vine. Rather than have them go to waste, they sent me home with a huge bag for me and a bag for my friend Olga. You can leave them to ripen on their own but you can also use them green of course! Most of them were cherry tomatoes so not the best or easiest choice for frying. I've pickled them before but I thought I'd try something different.

Since it is a dreary fall week, I made this easy chili pie for lunch yesterday. It really is simple, I had the idea and it was on the table in under an hour! The cornbread layer is nicely spicy and cheesy and balances out the hearty chili below. The tomatoes add a slight tartness to the chili which I find appealing.

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November 06, 2017

Daube de Bœuf à l'Orange et aux Épices (in the Slow Cooker)

2 lb cubed sirloin or stew meat
12 oz chopped white parts of leeks*
2 carrots, cut into rounds
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 juice and zest of large juicing orange
1 1/2 cups fruity, dry red wine
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon ground star anise
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
1 teaspoon crushed sage
1 teaspoon minced parsley
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Wondra or other fine flour

Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet. Toss the meat with the flour until lightly coated. Saute the meat until browned on both sides. Add it to a 4-quart slow cooker. Top with remaining ingredients. Cook on low for at least 8 hours and up to 10. Stir. If it look a lit too soupy, turn to high and cook with the lid slightly ajar until thickened. Sample the stew. If it is slightly bitter (this can happen depending on the wine used) add a small amount of sugar and stir it in until dissolved. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Serve it French style with crusty bread or American style over mashed potatoes.

Pro Tip:
I had to go out very early the morning I was going to make this so I put the cinnamon stick in the (off, cold) slow cooker the night before and placed the juice, wine, zest, spices, and vegetables in a resealable bag in the refrigerator overnight. My husband was working from home so he sauteed the meat and put it in the slow cooker then poured in the remaining ingredients and started it cooking.

*I just use frozen, prepped leeks and defrost them overnight in the refrigerator
My thoughts:
Daube is a Provençal style of stew that uses beef, aromatics, and vegetables and is traditionally made in a daubière, a type of braising pot. I was tempted to make it in my new braiser I bought at Aldi but I had to take our dachshund to the vet for tests in the morning and I didn't know when I'd have to pick her up so I quickly converted my recipe to a slow cooker version.** I'm sure the breezy French would just leave it on the stove while they pick up their dogs but I am a cautious American. The slow cooker is actually a great substitute because like a braiser, it traps in most of the cooking juices and makes tough cuts of meat meltingly tender. I like this stew around this time of year because it smells and tastes like the holidays without being overwhelmingly "Christmasy", it is just full of warm spices and bright orange juice, two of my favorite things about winter.

**If you did want to make it on the stove top, add an additional 2/3 cup wine and cook for 2 1/2-3 hours over low heat in a lightly covered braiser, Dutch or French oven, uncovering and turning it up at the end to reduce the cooking liquid.

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