November 30, 2007

Israeli Couscous with Broccoli & Cauliflower

1 cup Israeli couscous
1 1/4 cup mushroom broth
1/2 head cauliflower, chopped
1 bunch broccoli, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, cauliflower, broccoli and saute until softened. Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil then add couscous and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Toss the vegetables with the couscous, lemon juice and zest. Serve hot or cold.

My thoughts:
After some heavy meals, a light vegetable-based dinner seemed in order. The flavors are simple, but it is a fairly filling dish this tasty served hot or cold. Israeli couscous is a fun alternative to pasta, rice or ordinary couscous, it is larger (sort of the size of large pearl tapioca) and slightly chewy but has a neutral flavor that absorbs broth and other flavors well.

November 29, 2007

Potato & Onion Pierogi

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cold water
1 egg
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon salt

1 lb russet potatoes, baked, cooled, insides scooped out*
1/2 onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon milk
1 egg

First, saute the onions in the oil until translucent. Mash the potatoes, milk onions and egg together. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix together all of the dough ingredients until a round ball forms.

If it is overly sticky, add a little bit for flour, if crumbly, add a tiny bit more water. Roll out on a clean, floured surface. Roll about to about 1/8 thick.

Use a large round biscuit or cookie cutter to cut out circles.

Place 1 1/2 teaspoon of filling on one side of the round of dough leaving a 1/4 inch rim around the bottom. Fold the other side and pinch tightly shut.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the pierogi and boil until they float to the surface. Remove and serve or saute briefly in some butter, just to brown them, before serving. Serve hot. Yummy with sour cream and sauteed onions.

Yield: 10-12 pierogi

My thoughts:
Today I had one of those "why haven't I done this before" moments. Pierogi** is something I actually I grew up eating (albeit not homemade) unlike 90% of what I post here but for some reason it always seemed like too big of a deal to make on my own, from scratch. Then today it hit me what a silly excuse that was. We've made har gow*** which was very time consuming to make and required a special trip to the market for tapioca flour and wheat starch to make the wrappers. The humble pierogi uses only the most basic of ingredients and is much simpler to make once you get past the fact that you have to vigorously boil something that you pinched together yourself. It only took about 10-15 minutes to make the filling and the dough, roll it out and fill it. Having a stand mixer helped, but even if you couldn't mix and saute at once, it still only take about 20 minutes prep. Every culture seems to have a dumpling and pierogi (singular: pierog) is one of simplest, but also one of the most satisfying to eat-they are so filling, just a few pierogi can make a meal.

*I used baked potatoes because it eliminated a significant hands on time in making the filling. I didn't have to peel or chop the potatoes, wait for water to boil etc but you could just use plain mashed potatoes.

**Alternatively: perogi, perogy, pirohi, piroghi, pirogi, pirogen, piroshke or pyrohy.
***Shrimp dumplings with thin, translucent wrappers.

November 27, 2007

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

1 lb ground chicken
1/2 cup panko crumbs
1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 small onion, minced

to serve:
split crusty rolls
blue cheese dressing
celery sticks

In a bowl, mix together all of the burger ingredients by hand. Do not over work the meat. Gently form into 4 patties. Spray with cooking spray or add 1 tablespoon oil to a large skillet. Heat, then add the burgers, cooking 2-4 minutes on each side. Place on rolls, top with dressing and serve with celery sticks.

My thoughts:
My husband loves wings although we rarely have them. We've made them at home but it is a fair amount of work for something I personally I am not too fond of. I appreciate the idea but gnawing tiny bits of chicken off a teensy bone just isn't my idea of a good time. Enter the burger-all of the flavor if buffalo wings but none of the fuss.

November 26, 2007

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons dutch processed cocoa
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature

peppermint cream cheese frosting
red sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour 6 wells in a cupcake pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla, mix thoroughly. Meanwhile, mix together the cocoa powder, espresso powder and milk in a small bowl or measuring cup and set aside. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the butter mixture. Add the milk mixture to the rest of the batter and beat until well combined. Fill each well 2/3 of the way full. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with just one or two dry crumbs. Cool briefly in the pan, then remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely before icing with peppermint cream cheese frosting. Ice, then sprinkle.

*I bought this at our local Italian grocery but I have seen it in most regular grocery stores in the coffee isle.

Yield: 6 cupcakes

My thoughts:

It's that time of the year again- everyone is rhapsodizing about peppermint mochas from Starbucks. I admit, I am not a coffee drinker by any stretch of the imagination, but even I make an annual trip to Starbucks to get one. This year I thought it would be fun to combine those flavors into a new portable form: cupcakes. This recipe makes 6 cupcakes, which is a perfect number for a snack with friends, but can be easily multiplied to make more. The cupcake strikes a perfect balance of chocolate and coffee and the icing just elevates it to a whole new level.

November 25, 2007

Taste of the Tropics Oatmeal Cookies

8 oz (total) chopped macadamia nuts and semisweet chips*
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut**
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, vanilla and sugar. Add the egg, beat until fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, coconut, salt, nutmeg, and oatmeal. Mix until well combined. Fold in nuts and chips. Place 1 tablespoon sized blobs of dough on the cookie sheet (about 1/2 inch apart) and bake for 12-14 minutes or until they look "set" and the bottoms are just brown. Carefully, remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

*My mom bought me a bag of these Mauna Loa Premier Baking Pieces: Macadamia Nut Hershey Special Dark chips. It's basically a combination of coarsely chopped nuts and semisweet chips. If you can't find a bag near you (I can't even find a mention of it online, although I know they've been out for at least a year) just substitute a combination of macadamia nuts and chocolate chips to equal 8 oz with your preferred proportion of chocolate to nut.

**I find that unsweetened, dried coconut is often sold very cheaply at health food stores. If you can't find it and have to substitute sweetened flaked coconut, you might want to reduce the amount of sugar you use accordingly.

My thoughts:
These cookies are tropical in that wholesome 1950s way-add some "exotic" ingredients like coconut and macadamia nuts and you are halfway to Hawaii. They are also very, very addictive; even people who had eaten two or three couldn't stop themselves from eating just one more. The coconut was an interesting addition, the flavor was there but because of the oatmeal, there wasn't that slightly stringy texture that coconut-heavy cookies sometimes have.

November 23, 2007

Lion's Head


2 cups chicken stock OR mushroom broth
1 1/4 pound ground pork
1 large bunch scallions finely chopped
1 large bunch garlic chives, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup chopped bok choy (the remainder)
¼ cup large dried shiitake mushrooms OR dried black mushrooms
1/8 cup minced bok choy (white parts only)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine)
2 teaspoons black sesame oil PLUS extra for stir frying
2 inch knob fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 head Napa cabbage
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
canola oil


In a small pot, bring the broth to a boil then remove from heat. Soak mushrooms in the hot broth until soft. Remove the mushrooms from the pot. Slice and set aside, reserving the broth.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix together pork, scallions,pepper, bok choy whites, half of the rice wine, sesame oil, half of the ginger and half of the soy sauce,. Form into 4 patties. Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet and cook the patties for about 5 minutes on each side.

Remove and reserve 4 large cabbage leaves. Place the cabbage (whole) lengthwise on the cutting board and slice thinly from point to base and pull apart the pieces to shred. Toss with bok choy and garlic chives.

Add some canola oil and a drop or two of the sesame oil to a large pot and heat, Stir-fry the mushrooms, half of the cabbage mixture, and the rest of the ginger, and the remaining rice wine and soy sauce until the cabbage begins to wilt, 1-2 minutes. Add remaining cabbage stir-fry until all of cabbage has begun to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add the broth. Arrange the patties in a single layer and then cover with the reserved leaves. Cover and simmer 20 minutes, then remove the cover and cook an additional 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice.

My thoughts:
I've always loved lion's head but it isn't always on the menu. I decided to make my own version which is fairly close to what I've had out but with some of my own touches. Typically the meatballs have water chestnuts in them. Something about the texture of water chestnuts is really off putting to me, but I really wanted to maintain some crunch (for texture interest) so I finely diced some of the crunchy bottom of a stalk of bok choy and used that instead. Still a touch of crunch but without the icky texture. I also added garlic chives and the rest of the head of the bok choy to the cabbage. You could also choose to make smaller meatballs, I made four so it was easily divisible: one for each of us for dinner, then the other two were divided up for our lunches. It was really, realy good.

November 21, 2007

Simple, Fresh Sauerkraut

7 cups finely shredded cabbage
4-5 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds

Mix all ingredients together until the cabbage starts to leak water. Place in a large, nonreactive container. Pack the cabbage in tightly. There should be enough liquid to cover the cabbage. If not, pour some some brine (16 oz water, 1 tablespoon sea salt) to cover. Weigh down the cabbage* (keeping it below the liquid) and allow to ferment in a cool, dry place for at least 1 week. Check it daily and skim off any scum* that may float to the top. After fermenting, refrigerate in an air tight container.

*I put the cabbage in a huge jar with a very wide mouth and weighted down a shallow bowl with a quart bag filled with water to press down the cabbage. It worked well.
**I really didn't get any.

My thoughts:

As I think I've mentioned before, serving sauerkraut on Thanksgiving along side the turkey and mashed potatoes is a longstanding Baltimore tradition. It wasn't until I was in college before I realized that this wasn't something the rest of America did. It just makes sense to have something pickle-y and sour as a foil to the sweet-tart cranberry sauce and creamy potatoes. Or at least it does here in Baltimore.

I never gave making sauerkraut from scratch any thought before but I was emboldened by my kimchi success. I did some research but couldn't find a really definitive recipe (I couldn't even find consensus on how much salt to use per pound) so I just gave it my best shot. Basically, sauerkraut is nothing more than fermented, salted cabbage so the margin for error is less than one might think. I added caraway seeds for a more Germanic touch and then waited for about a week. The result: slightly crunchy, perfectly sour, kraut! I feel like a magician.

November 16, 2007

Fresh Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies (with a tasty chocolate chip surprise!)

1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup semisweet mini chips
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper*. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, vanilla and sugar. Add the egg, beat until fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, and oatmeal. Mix until well combined. Fold in cranberries** and chips. Place 1 tablespoon sized blobs of dough on the cookie sheet (about 1/2 inch apart) and bake for 12-14 minutes or until they look "set" and the bottoms are just brown. Carefully, remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

*I've gotten some questions regarding parchment paper. To answer: yes, it is worth it. Repeat after me: "no clean up".

**The cranberries might pop as you mix them in and make a scary sound. That's okay, it doesn't matter if they are whole anyway.

My thoughts:

I had some cranberries, 1 1/2 cups actually, leftover from making sauce and thought about making cookies. I did some searching and actually couldn't find more than a couple (frankly, unappetizing) cookie recipes that used fresh cranberries. I am no stranger to baking with fresh cranberries, having made more muffins, bread, pancakes, crisps, and cakes than I can list here, so I found this odd. Dried cranberries might have the leg up because they are shelf stable and available year 'round but what about those months when you can use fresh cranberries? Do they not deserve cookies? I briefly wondered if there might be a reason why people aren't making cookies with fresh cranberries but quickly dismissed it. All I needed was about 25 minutes and I'd have my answer, so why not experiment. And I am glad I did. Using fresh cranberries totally works! Of course, this is not a overly sweet cookie (although I was so excited about finding mini chips at the store*** yesterday, I tossed some in) due to the tart nature of the cranberry but sweet enough. And if you close your eyes and take a bite, between all the cranberries and the oatmeal, you can almost think of them as good for you.

***Hershey's semisweet mini chips, which like it seems with all mini chips, are notoriously hard to find. If you're local, Mars is a stronghold. Beyond that I buy them at Chocolate World. Guittard makes mini chips too or so I hear, but they aren't available locally. You can substitute regular sized chips, but the mini ones are great, a tiny burst of chocolate in every bite, without being overpowering.

November 15, 2007

Potato & Celeriac Mash

1 1/2 lb Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 lb celeriac, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/8 cup cream
3 tablespoons butter
white pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the potatoes and celeriac and cook until fork tender. Drain and return to pot. Add cream, salt, pepper, milk, parmesan and butter. Mash manually. Serve hot.

My thoughts:
In Alice Waters' wonderful new book* The Art of Simple Food she talks about how potato and celeriac (she calls it celery root) are such a great pairing that together they form a third vegetable. Since I had such success with that gratin (not to mention leftover celeriac) I had to agree. I thought the gratin was good, but this might be even better. I am not normally one of those people loads her mashed potatoes up with butter and cream, but these are voluptuous with just a splash of cream, perfect for a holiday meal. Silky, smooth and oh so tasty.

*Seriously, you should run and get this book. I haven't found her older books to be too exciting (I know! I am the only one) but this one is a perfect blend of simple techniques and fresh ideas about food. It would be a perfect gift for a beginning cook (she goes over the basics like making stock, technical terms) but also for those of us who are more seasoned (base recipes for custards, lots of variations, food histories/facts) there is something there too.

November 14, 2007

Tangerine Scented Roasted Turkey

1 15 lb turkey
4 tangerines, quartered
1 small onion, quartered
dried sage
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Sprinkle the onion and tangerine quarters with sage. Meanwhile, rinse the (empty) turkey off with cold water. Place on the rack and position in the roasting pan. Squirt the turkey with 1/2 tangerine. Rub the turkey with a tablespoon of oil and salt and pepper. Stick 1 1/2 tangerine and the onion inside the empty cavity of the turkey. Arrange 4 quarters around the bird. Squeeze the juice from the remaining tangerine into the bottom of the pan. Roast at 400 for ½ an hour then reduce heat to 325 and continue to roast for about 2 ½ hours, basting with juices from the pan every ½ hour, or until the juices run clear and the leg is easily moved. You may choose to tent the breast of the turkey about ½ an hour in for tender meat. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before carving.

My thoughts:
When I make a big meal, I like to come up with flavor themes. It cuts down on the number of ingredients I have to buy and insures that all of the components of the meal come together. Last year I went all out with a apple cider and Madeira theme. This year I kept it a little more simple and used tangerine in the cranberry sauce and in the turkey (which in turn flavored the stuffing a bit). I got the idea for a tangerine infused turkey from those old recipes that call for sticking a lemon inside a chicken then roasting it. This is similar, but in this case, much better-tangerines seem so much more festive and special this time of year. Not to mention the availability of really juicy tangerines this year makes not using them a shame.

Re: Brining. I've gotten a lot of emails about brining this year. We've done it in the past, but if you have a good quality turkey, I don't really see the need. It does make the bird moist, but so does buying a good turkey and cooking it properly. And if you aren't careful with the brine, you might end up with a salty, inedible turkey.

November 13, 2007

Crimini Mushroom Unstuffing

8 cups torn sandwich bread
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1/2 cup water or mushroom broth
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon thyme
8 oz sliced crimini mushrooms

In a large pan, saute celery, mushrooms and onions in butter until translucent. Do not brown. Add to bread cubes in bowl and add seasoning. Combine with egg and water and form medium sized balls.

Place balls in the bottom of the roasting pan underneath the turkey on the rack and around the turkey on the rack for about the last 1/2 hour of baking and cook until cooked through.

My thoughts:
In my family, we didn't stuff the turkey nor did we bake the "stuffing" in a seperate dish. We made stuffing balls. Even though stuffing the turkey is back in vogue (as is stuffing under the skin) it is still my prefered method. The "stuffing" soaks up juices that run out out of the turkey and are individually proportioned for easy serving. Stuffing is my favorite part of the meal, I honestly make a turkey every year (despite going to the in-laws and not cooking on Thanksgiving) so I have an excuse to make tons and tons of stuffing. You can also halve the recipe and make it with chicken or cornish game hens.

November 12, 2007

Cranberry & Tangerine Sauce

2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup tangerine juice
2 tablespoons Aperol
1/2 inch knob ginger, minced
zest of 1 tangerine

Place the cranberries, water, juice, sugar, ginger and zest in a medium saucepan and, stirring occasionally, cook for 20 minutes over medium high heat to reduce and thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the Aperol. Serve hot or cold.

My thoughts:
I love cranberry sauce and this citrus spiked version is one of my favorites yet. Tangerines are a good balancing force for the cranberries so you end up with a sauce that isn't too sweet but isn't overly tart or bitter either. And Aperol? Well, it is just one of my new favorites and has great not too sweet notes of bitter orange and rhubarb (among other yummy things) but isn't 100% necessary for the sauce. It just adds a little something extra.

November 10, 2007

How to Boil a Lobster

lobster (live, moving around, with clear looking eyes)


Keep the lobster chilled (and alive) until you go to boil it. Fill your largest stockpot with water to the half way point and add salt.

Cover and bring water to a boil. Use tongs to drop the lobster into the water. Loosely cover. Boil 1 lb* lobsters for 15 minutes.

Lobster should be bright red when it is fully cooked. Eat as is or use in your favorite recipe.

*1 lb is pretty standard sized for lobsters, but if you are lucky enough to get a big one, add 5 minutes for every 1/2 lb to you cooking time.

My thoughts:
We were lucky enough to be given a fabulous Le Creuset lobster pot when we got married a couple of years ago but have rarely ever actually used it for cooking lobster. Generally we make stock, gumbo or chili in it, so when we can actually use it for lobster it is pretty special. Growing up in Baltimore, I am more familiar with crabs than lobster which seemed so big and daunting but is actually much easier to eat than streamed crabs. Just remove and crack open both parts of the claw (nutcrackers work just as well as fancy lobster crackers), see if you can get any meat out of the legs, then bend the tail until it cracks and peel the shell off the meat and you're done. And unlike crab, the meat is big and in one piece. Much easier to eat but less of an event. Anyway, I got 2 fresh, live lobsters overnighted to me from Sagamore Lobster and they were so, so good. Fresh tasting, wild caught and the most lobster-tasting lobster I have ever had if that makes any sense. I am already dreaming of the next time we boil some lobster. Lobster this good is great plain, but if you aren't planning on cutting it up to use in a recipe and are a dipper, heating lemon juice, minced shallots and butter together makes a great dipping sauce.

November 09, 2007

Celeriac & Potato Gratin

1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 large celeriac*, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/4 lb potato**, peeled and thinly sliced
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
shredded asagio, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375. In a small pot, bring the the cream, thyme and milk to a boil. Allow to cool (about 15 minutes) then strain. Discard the thyme. Stir in the nutmeg, green onions and salt/pepper to taste. Meanwhile, arrange the celeriac and potato slices in a lightly greased oven safe dish. Pour the milk mixture over the vegetables and sprinkle lightly with cheese. Cover and bake until the liquid is absorbed, about 40-45 minutes for a large dish, 20-25 for individual sized dishes, taking the cover off for the last 5 minute or so to brown the cheese. Serve hot.

*also known as celery root, it is large, warty and more than a little daunting looking. It smells and tastes faintly of celery.

**Or a little or more potato. I kept it pretty equal to the celeriac.

My thoughts:
First, I'd like to apologize that the picture for this isn't of the finished product, it came out great (and attractive) but it was so dark out I couldn't get a good shot. Anyway, I'd heard of celeriac before but I don't think I've ever actually eaten it until today. I actually had never noticed in the store until recently and thought I'd give it a chance. It is sort of intimidating looking but has a similar texture when raw to potato, so I just treated it as such. I liked it a lot, it made an ordinary gratin something special. I can't wait to use it in something else.

And if you aren't tired of voting: my green tomato chili recipe is up for a little prize on Apartment Therapy: The Kitchen. The voting is here. The prize is a fun one!

November 07, 2007

Mango & Pomegranate Terrine

1/2 ounce unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups club soda
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup water
1 large mango, cubed

In a large bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the lukewarm water. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a small pan, bring 1/4 cup water and the sugar to a slow boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cool slightly then pour into the gelatin. Stir. Add the club soda, stir gently. Arrange the fruit in a loaf pan. Pour the liquid on top. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours or until firm. Run under warm water and invert onto a plate to unmold.

My thoughts:
I've never participated in Donna Hay Day before but when I saw that this time the theme was terrines, I couldn't resist. I had been planning on making a sparkling pomegranate gelatin once pomegranates came into season so I thought than instead of going the individual mold route, I'd make a loaf shaped terrine. I thought the pomegranate's tartness would be tempered by the sweetness of mango(the fact that I have a whole case of mangos didn't discourage the idea either) and terrines generally have multiple layers of flavors so decided to add a second fruit to the mix. Rather than make it with fruit juice like a lot of jelled terrines, I kept the flavors simple and just sweetened the liquid a bit. I love how it turned out. The club soda gave it an effervescent texture and the pomegranate pips exploded in your mouth with every bite. I liked it even better than the summery raspberry/blackberry/blueberry gelatin terrines I've made, the pomegranate seeds float so you get a more interesting fruit distribution then you do when everything is roughly the same weight/size. Gelatin terrines do seem a bit summery, but using more seasonal fruit takes it right into the colder weather. Plus it is a refreshing change from all of the heavy desserts that are abundant this time of year.

November 06, 2007

Crunchy Polenta Bites

2 3/4 cups mushroom broth
1 cup polenta PLUS more for sprinkling
finely shredded parmesan (optional)
In a medium pan, bring the broth to a boil. Add the polenta and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour into a 10x7 inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 400. Allow the polenta to set up for about 25 minutes or until it is firm enough to invert onto a flat surface that has been sprinkled with additional polenta and parmesan. Invert. Sprinkle the top with polenta/cheese. Slice into strips, cubes or fun shapes. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake 25 minutes or until the top looks dry and crunchy. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I've rarely had polenta, but this method of cooking it is quite satisfyingly crunchy. Sort of like little moist inside-crispy outside bits of cornbread or grits. Slightly time consuming, but there is very little hands on time, which is perfect for a side dish. Although with a fun dipping sauce, I bet they'd made a good appetizer.

November 05, 2007

Crab Stuffed Shells

64 oz whole tomatoes (in juice), hand crushed
1/2 lb fresh lump crab meat
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, minced
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons grated Asiago (divided)
1/4 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella (divided)
1 egg
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
white pepper
jumbo pasta shells, cooked and cooled


In a large pan, heat the olive oil then add onions, carrots and garlic and saute just until the garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, cook 2-4 minutes or until it reduces slightly. Add the tomatoes, simmer for until sauce thickens, about 20-25 minutes. Stir in cream. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, 1/2 cup asiago, nutmeg, crab, salt, pepper and egg. Mix thoroughly. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Fill shells with 1 tablespoon of the cheese/crab mixture. Place filled shells in a single layer on the sauce. Shells can be placed very close together. Cover with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover in foil and bake in a preheated 350 oven for 1/2 hour, then remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese melts and the dish looks bubbly and hot.
My thoughts:
I think this is the very first time I've used fresh crabmeat for anything other than crabcakes. This is a nice twist on classic stuffed shells, the addition of crab really takes it to the next level. Matt came up with the idea when I was having some recipe ennui at the store this afternoon. Stuffed shells are a lot fun to make especially as a team, the mixing/stuffing parts go a lot faster.

November 04, 2007

Radish Kimchi

1 bunch young radish*
1 bunch green onions, green part cut into 1 inch pieces
1 inch knob ginger, grated
4 cloves garlic, grated
5 tablespoons anchovy sauce and/or 1-2 tablespoons fermented shrimp paste**
4 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons Korean red pepper powder
1 tablespoon sugar

Cube or halve the radish. Prepared radish kimchi is normally sold with the radish halved but I like to cube it so it is easier to eat. Fill a nonreactive bowl with water. Add the radish and sea salt. Allow to soak for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the ginger, garlic, pepper flakes, sugar, sauce and green onions. Drain the radish and rinse slightly. Place in a large nonreactive jar and add the red pepper powder. Stir until well coated. Add the sauce. Stir to coat. Cover tightly and allow sit unrefrigerated for about 2 full days. Place in refrigerator.

* Available at most Asian groceries, they are white and about 4 inches long and 2 inches in diameter.
**Fermented shrimp paste is preferred, but I find it is more difficult to find than anchovy sauce. A combination of the two is a tasty but pungent option.

My thoughts:
Having not grown up making (or eating) kimchi, I generally stick to buying jars of it at the store. Every time I bought it I looked at the ingredient lists and saw how short it was. How hard could it be to make a small batch of kimchi at home? As it turned out, not too hard. I chose to make a radish-based kimchi, because it is my favorite and it seemed easier than the layers and layer of cabbage variety. A quick trip to my local Korean superstore supplied me with everything I needed and with in a half hour of getting started, I was on my way to fermentation. I just purchased the same ingredients listed on the label of my favorite store bought kimchi and played around with the measurements and proportions until it was perfect. Now I am not claiming this is a 100% authentic recipe nor am I a kimchi expert, but it came out exactly as I hoped, a homemade version of the prepared kimchi I love.

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November 03, 2007

How to: Holiday Meal Plan

I'm not claiming to be a holiday cooking expert but you wouldn't believe the number of emails I've gotten asking for tips on making a complete holiday meal. With a little advance planning, the big day will be a snap.

Many of the ingredients and flavors in this menu are repeated in more than one dish so not only do all the dishes go well together, you don’t have a lot of unrelated specialty ingredients to buy and you won't end up with a bunch of small amounts of random items. For example, there are pecans in the stuffing and gingered sweet potato pie and the pie crust which will just about kill a bag of pecans.

Shopping List:
1 16-18 lb turkey
Large bunch parsley (to be divided in 2)
Bottle of Madeira
Chicken broth or turkey stock
1 lb pecan halves
½ gallon apple cider
1 bag cranberries
2 lb onions
1 bunch celery
1 loaf sliced bread (about 1 lb)
Poultry seasoning (basically a mix of marjoram, sage, rosemary, thyme, pepper)
Celery seed
Sage (fresh or dried)
1 12 oz can sweetened condensed milk
Knob of fresh ginger
Light brown sugar
3 sweet potatoes or yams
Vegetables for side dishes
Potatoes for mashing

The night before or the morning of:

Make the ginger spiced sweet potato pie and pecan crust. Reserve leftover pecans for the stuffing.

About 4 hours before you want to eat, begin the turkey:

About 1 ½ hours in, prepare the stuffing.

About 3 ¼ hours in, boil the potatoes to mash. When finished, mash in 1 tablespoon butter, some milk. Make cranberry sauce.

About 3 ¾ hours in, steam vegetables. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, remove turkey from oven, drain juices and make the gravy.

Plate and serve.

Day after:
Use up your leftover cranberry sauce by making this yummy cake. And make these great turkey enchiladas.

Traditional Thanksgiving Menu Plan

Spring this menu!

Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Menu Plan

Spring this menu!

November 01, 2007

Pumpkin Cornbread

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup pepitas (unroasted, shelled pumpkin seeds)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Grease or spray one 8x8 baking pan or an 8 inch pie tin. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and soda, sugar and salt. Beat in the pumpkin until well combined. Fold in pepitas Pour into pan and bake 25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

My thoughts:
I made this cornbread to go with the chili I made yesterday. It is really moist and fluffy and very pumpkiny. The pumpkin seeds provide a pleasant texture contrast but aren't really necessary. Don't forget to vote for best food blog in the 2007 Weblog Awards.