December 31, 2010

My Favorite Recipes of 2010

In 2010, I created and posted over 160 recipes! Here is my favorite from each month.


Lemon Drop Cupcakes


Rachel's Ultimate Crab Dip


Homemade Mozzarella Sticks


Bacon Loves Shrimp Deviled Eggs


Mango-Chile Icebox Pie


Tzatziki Lamb Burgers


Mexican Hot Dogs


Smoked Pineapple Pork


Smokin' Hot Pickled Okra


Apple Cider Jelly Candy


Turkey Ruebens


Green Bean Salad

December 29, 2010

Ham Salad

3/4 lb ham, finely chopped
3 tablespoons-1/4 cup chopped jarred cornichons and the onions
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons very grainy mustard
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon allspice
freshly ground pepper

Stir together all ingredients until a smooth mixture forms. Refrigerate.

My thoughts:
I brought back a jar of Maille cornichons from the Caribbean (I love buying European goods on the islands, they are so much cheaper than what they are here in the US. Of course, I also brought back a ton of Caribbean and East Indies ingredients as well). I like using them and the little pickled onions that are included in salads when I can. Normally I am more of a dill pickle girl but they go great with salt and savory ingredients like ham.

Honestly, I did not grow up eating ham salad, although I hear it is an East Coast thing. I had it for the first time from a local German deli and I noticed it changed from week to week or at least, visit to visit. It is an awesome way to use up leftover ham and makes a spread that can be dressed up or down as the occasion requires.

December 27, 2010

Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili

1 1/2-2 lbs lean ground beef
28 oz can crushed or coarse ground tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

To serve:
1 lb spaghetti
sour cream
chopped raw onions
dark red kidney beans (heated through)
shredded extra sharp cheddar
oyster crackers

In a large skillet saute onion, garlic, ground beef, and chili powder until ground beef is just barely cooked. Take care to break the meat into small bits. Drain off any excess fat. Add to a four quart slow cooker. Add all of the remaining ingredients. Stir. It might look a little dry but that is okay. Cook for 8-10 hrs. Stir.

Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.

There are several ways to eat Cincinnati style chili:
3-way: Spaghetti topped with chili, covered with shredded cheddar cheese
4-way: Spaghetti topped with chili, cheese, onions
5-way: Spaghetti topped with beans, chili, cheese & onions

Serve the crackers on the side.

My thoughts:
It is cold and snowy (Snow! I didn't authorize snow!) and I am sorely missing the weather we had on our recent vacation. Luckily I have a recipe for Cincinnati Chili in my cookbook that I really love on a day like this. The ingredients are all things I (and most home cooks) would have on hand, which means no need to run to the store in bad weather but since it is a more unusual style of chili than most people are used to (outside of Ohio, of course) it doesn't seem like you are eating the same old thing.

This is a slightly different version than the recipe that appears in my book; I added a couple of extra spices and tweaked the proportions a bit to yield a bit more chili. The meat gets amazing tender and really impregnated with flavor since it cooks for so long, which is important in this style of chili. Cincinnati chili shouldn't be too saucy or on the other hand, too dry and I think the slow cooker makes achieving this balance easy and requires virtually no hands-on time. Ironically, I tend to use my slow cooker when I am doing a lot of other cooking (recipe development gigs, baking) but it is great to sit down to a meal hours after you did the work for it.

The leftovers are great on hot dogs.

Can't get enough? Make traditional Cincinnati Chili, Cincinnati Chili Mac, and even Cincinnati Chili Dogs and Cincinnati Chili-Inspired Sloppy Joes.

December 22, 2010

Spicy Fried Oysters

16 oz shucked, raw "frying size" oysters
2/3 cup Instant Blending Flour
2/3 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
3 1/2 tablespoons garlic-habanero hot sauce*
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon chipotle
freshly ground black pepper

canola oil for frying

Pour the oysters in a small bowl. Douse in hot sauce. Allow to soak for 10 minutes or up to one hour in the fridge. Meanwhile pour the egg, flour and breadcrumbs into separate shallow bowls. Stir the the spices to the breadcrumbs. Beat some hot sauce into the egg if desired. Heat about 1/2 to 1 inch of oil in a large, shallow skillet, enough to cover the oysters.

Dredge each oyster in the flour, then in the egg then the seasoned bread crumbs. Drop the oysters into the hot oil, taking care that they do not overlap or they will stick together. Cook until golden on all sides, just a minute or so. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

*I used the yummy Miss Anna's that I bought in St. Croix but any garlic-y habanero sauce would work.

My thoughts:

I love oysters very much. Growing up, once a year my mom and grandpop would pick up a huge order of fried oysters from a local seafood shop and we'd have a feast of oysters just barely garnished with coleslaw and cocktail sauce. It was the culinary high light of my year even when I was quite young, even under age five or so. Despite our love of oysters, I don't think it ever occurred to my family to fry our our own. It wasn't until I was off on my own that I realized how easily (and cheaply!) it was to find local frying oysters. Normally I just fry them dredged in matzo meal or bread crumbs but these time I decided to branch out and make a spicier version that had no need of a sauce. I was worried the oysters' flavor would be overpowered by the spices but it really wasn't. Each bite was crispy then spicy then very oyster-y. Fried seafood perfection! We had these for dinner straight but I think they'd be great in po boys or even as an appetizer.


December 20, 2010

Apple Cranberry Sauce

12 oz whole cranberries
1 small apple, peeled and diced (I used Stayman Winesap)
1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons rye or bourbon

Bring the cranberries, water, apple, sugar and lemon juice to a boil. Reduce heat then simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in rye. Serve hot or cold.

My thoughts:

I think I must make cranberry sauce more often than anyone on the planet. My husband really likes it and we make it many times over the whole year. I stock up on cranberries when they are cheap and then freeze them. Anyway, I make cranberry sauce so often, it is some times a challenge to keep it interesting. Sometimes it is easy when I have a flavor theme for the meal in mind but let's face it, more often I am serving it with a plain old roasted chicken or turkey. In this case, I added one of my favorite apples to the mix and enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd post it. The apple got soft but held its shape well. I really liked the contrast between the flavors and textures, cranberry sauce can be a bit one dimensional.

December 17, 2010

Spiced Black Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup coarsely chopped black walnuts
2 egg, at room temperature
4 tablespoons blackstrap rum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium sized bowl combine flour, salt, and baking powder. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and rum and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the sweetened butter and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts. Distribute them evenly in the batter. Form cookies by dropping 1 teaspoon of dough on the sheet two inches apart. Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 12 minutes. Remove (using a flat turner or spatula) to a wire rack to cool.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

Note: This is a really easy recipe to double or even halve.

My thoughts:
Black walnuts are native to Maryland but as the saying goes, they are a tough nut to crack. They have very hard shells and prepping the nuts for use is pretty time consuming. Luckily, they are pretty easy to find, especially during the holiday season, in grocery stores. I found some at Costco that were very fresh and affordable. They are a bit more robust flavored than regular walnuts and well worth seeking out. I love this cookie because it doesn't stray too far from the traditional chocolate chip cookie but the spices and walnuts make it more festive. The best of both worlds!

December 15, 2010

Eggnog Saigon Cinnamon Swirl Bread


3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Saigon cinnamon

4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 cups eggnog
2/3 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Grease or spray one standard loaf pan or mini loaf pan that makes 4 one cup loaves. In a small bowl, whisk together swirl ingredients. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together baking powder, nutmeg, flour, sugar and salt. In a medium sized bowl, combine eggs, eggnog, vanilla and oil. Add to flour mixture. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour into pan, filling about 1/3 of the way. Sprinkle with swirl mixture. Add more batter, top with more of the swirl mixture. Bake 45- 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan 10-15 minutes then carefully remove to wire racks. Cool completely before slicing.
My thoughts:

I love making and giving quick breads for the holidays and am always trying to think of a new variation. Last year when faced with a ton of leftover nog I realized that I could use eggnog in pretty much the same way I would use milk. Saigon cinnamon is very fragrant with a spicy-sweet flavor that I think makes it the perfect foil to the rich eggnog. Think of this as a traditional cinnamon bread taken to the next level.

December 13, 2010

Jammy Oatmeal Streusel Muffins

1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup white peach & fresh ginger jam
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg

1/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon roasted ginger powder

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour one 12 well muffin tin. Use a fork to mix together the streusel topping in a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix together the oatmeal, egg, oil, buttermilk, and sugar. After it is thoroughly mixed, add in the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir to combine. Fill each well in the muffin tin 1/2 of the way. Add a tablespoon of peach jam to the middle of each muffin. Top with remaining batter. Sprinkle with streusel. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the center muffin comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack, serve.

My thoughts:
The best part about canning is knowing that you will have a the chance to have a taste of summer during the long, cold winter. Let me tell you, a bite of peach was exactly what I needed when I came back from our two week Caribbean foray and was faced with Baltimore winter. These muffins are a bit more tedious to make than most (the streusel) but it is well worth it. The streusel is crisp and crumbly and makes the muffins a lot more festive than they'd be without it. The jam adds a fruity punch but take care to center it in the batter or it will run and possibly scorch or cause the muffin to break in half when you try and eat it.

December 10, 2010

Green Bean Salad with Tangerine Vinaigrette

2 lb "French" green beans (the skinny kind, AKA haricot verts), steamed
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries or a mixture of the two
2-3 strips thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)

1 large shallot, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon pepper sherry
1 tablespoon tangerine zest
2 tablespoons tangerine juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients or shake it in a dressing shaker until smooth and emulsified. Set aside. Toss together the other ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing. Toss again. Serve hot, warm or cold.

My thoughts:
Green beans are one of the few vegetables I don't mind buying or eaten after being frozen. I also don't mind peas, spinach and home-frozen corn. Like the other, green beans, if frozen properly, retain much if not all of their texture and flavor. Squash is wonderful of course but they about this time of year, I am already hoping for something different. I created this dish to bring to dinner because it is equally good hot, cold or warm. I hate having to go to someone's house and have to cook a dish from the beginning and in the winter, it is tricky to keep a vegetable dish warm for a trip over a few minute drive. Frankly, I prefer to bring a potato dish or dessert or even rolls/bread but it was my mother doing the asking and I was tasked with vegetables. And rolls, but that was easy. My family is full of pickier eaters than I am so I wanted to make something that was a little different that what they might not normally eat but not anything intimidating. Yet another reason the humble green bean was a perfect choice. Pretty much anyone will eat a green bean. They rest of the ingredients weren't anything to be scared of either but come together in such away that it is anything but boring.

December 08, 2010

Roasted Pork with Kohlrabi

1.75 lb boneless pork roast
1 large bunch kohlrabi, peeled and cubed
2 Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large carrot, cut into coins
3 1/2 oz beech mushrooms (Buna shimeji)
2 1/2 lb boneless pork roast
1/2 lb pearl onions*

sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
smoked paprika
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle the pork on all sides with the spices. Heat oil in a stovetop and oven safe dutch oven. Add the vegetables and saute until the onions start to brown. Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan and add the pork. Cook to slightly brown each side. Place in the over and roast for 40 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Slice and serve.

*I get bored too easily to peel tiny onions so I just use (undefrosted) frozen. They can be tricky to find but most stores seem to carry them during the holiday season. Stock up!

My thoughts:
I love cooking in a dutch oven. It is almost as easy as slow cooking because I can start the meal off on the stove and then pop it in the oven and pretty much ignore it until it is fully cooked. How can you beat a one pot meal?

Kohlrabi, if you are unfamiliar with it, is similar in texture to a potato or celeriac. Try to buy a bunch with largest bulbs possible, there is a fair amount of loss when it peeled. I ended up with a a few cups of cubed kohlrabi. It is a little tricky to peel, cut the tentacles off then use the knife to cut off the thick skin. The leaves are edible so save them for another dish.

December 06, 2010

Pear & Yogurt Bundt Cake

6 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 quart canned pears, drained and diced
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup pear cider
16 oz full fat Greek or Mediterranean style yogurt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla/rye/bourbon

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour one bundt pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the wet ingredients, stir to combine. In separate bowl, Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl until well combined. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until a uniform batter forms. Fold in pear. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 55 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes on a wire rack, then remove from the pan. Cool completely.

My thoughts:
I've been on a quest to give you guys some recipes that use all of the stuff I've been canning. Of course, I benefit too! My canning cabinet is seriously full and while I am the kind of person who likes to hoard good ingredients, I know I have to use it up. If only to make room for the next stuff. Anyway, I canned these pears back in the beginning of their season and while pears are still pretty available, they are not as good as they were back then. When I was invited to a Southern themed party, I knew I had to use my sweet tea syrupy pears (although I am sure if would be just fine with any old good quality canned pear). I based the recipe off of an old fashioned sour cream cake my Aunt A used to make when I was little. It is a bit rich but a great way to use up eggs! The yogurt gives it some tang and the pear cider really drives home the pear flavor, which I find can be tricky to maintain in baked goods. It also makes for a very moist cake. It was a huge hit at the party, pretty much every slice was gone in just a few minutes!

December 03, 2010

Slow Cooked Beef Stew (with Mushrooms & Vegetables)

group #1
2 lb beef top round or sirloin, cubed
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 carrots cut into coins
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 portobello mushroom caps, cubed

group #2
1 cup red wine
14 oz canned diced tomatoes
1/2-1 teaspoon marjoram
1/2-1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

group #3
1 cup frozen or fresh green beans
1/3 cup frozen or fresh corn kernals

Saute the ingredients from group #1 in a bit of canola oil until the vegetables are softened and the meat is lightly browned. Add to a 4 quart slow cooker. If the meat and vegetables gave off a lot of liquid and it isn't too oily, I add a little less than 1/4 cup of it into the slow cooker. Add the ingredients from group #2. Stir. Cover and cook for 7-8 hours. Stir in the ingredients from group #3. Cover and cook for an additional 1/2 hr. Stir and serve.

My thoughts:
This recipe is inspired by a stew my grandpop made when I was growing up. I don't think he ever even heard of a portobello mushroom but his stews always had a lot of vegetables. He would make them and use up whatever vegetables he had on hand and no two stews were the same. Some times they'd have tomatoes, some times green beans, some times corn. My favorites had green beans for some reason. He would cook it for hours on the stove top but when I was working on my cookbook last summer I realized how easy it was to make stew in the slow cooker. I don't have to keep an eye on it like Grandpop did and the results are just as good. I know browning meat in the morning is the last thing I feel like doing but it does make for a richer final product. What I do is cut up all the vegetables the night before and put them in a ziplock or Tupperware. I try to buy pre-cubed meat if it looks good but if I don't, I cube it and pack it in a separate container. That way in the morning all I have to do is shake the ingredients into the pan, brown them for a few minutes and then pop everything in the slow cooker.

December 01, 2010

Grapefruit Segments in Vanilla Bean & Star Anise Syrup

5 Texas Rio Star (red) grapefruits
1 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, sliced along the seam
4-6 whole star anise

Sterilize your jars. Keep them warm until ready to use. Supreme the grapefruit. As you work, place the segments in a large measuring cup. Squeeze the membranes and peels into the measuring cup. Discard the peels and membranes. Carefully remove the segments to a heavy sauce pan using a slotted spoon or mini strainer. Add water to the juice in the measuring cup to equal 2 cups (I only needed to add one cup). Add to the sauce pan. Add the vanilla beans and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally but very gently. Remove the vanilla beans and star anise. Ladle the mixture into prepared jars. Cut the vanilla beans to fit and add them and the star anise to the jars if desired. Seal. Process for 5 minutes in a hot water bath.

Yield: 4-5 8 oz jars

Note: It is important to sterilize the jars prior to filling for this recipe due to the very short processing time. Do not over process the filled jars.

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
I recently was lucky enough to come in possession of a bunch of truly fragrant Texas grapefruit. I had high hopes of finally tackling marmalade making but when I cut into them, about half, while delicious, had very, very thick skin (lots of pith) and I wasn't eager to spend all that time prepping the fruit and making marmalade only to yield a couple of 1/2 pints. We were getting ready to go on vacation so I knew I didn't have time just to eat them one by one and I am not a terribly big grapefruit eater anyway. I looked up tons of grapefruit recipes and none really seemed appealing until I came across a recipe for a poached grapefruit made with lots of fresh mint. It sounded tasty but again, my short deadline and amount of grapefruit I had didn't make this a practical solution. So I took the idea of poaching the grapefruit one further and canned the segments in a very light syrup. In the future I will use it just as I would poached grapefruit: over ice cream, yogurt or panna cotta or even in drinks. The vanilla bean and star anise add interest (and spice of course) to the syrup and keep the grapefruit from being puckeringly overpowering.

November 29, 2010

Smoked Salmon Spinach Labne Dip

1 1/2 lb labne (Kefir cheese)
1/2 lb smoked salmon (not lox), flaked
3/4 cup squeezed dry, defrosted frozen chopped spinach
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons herbs de Provence
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon pepper sherry
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 teaspoon dry mustard
zest of one lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined and distributed.

My thoughts:
I'd never really had labne, a type of yogurt cheese, much but the tub I had recently made me a instant convert. I had heard it was a great sub for cream cheese or sour cream which I thought was just hyperbole but it really was. It was kind of tart fresh from the tub but once mixed with the other dip ingredients it really tasted like and had the consistency of cream cheese. So good but much less fat. Awesome. For this dip I combined elements of several of my favorite dips into one. It was so good!

November 26, 2010

Turkey Ruebens

sliced leftover roasted turkey
4 slices Swiss Cheese
8 slices rye bread
1 cup sauerkraut

Russian dressing:
2 slices dill pickle, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
white pepper

Stir together the dressing ingredients. Spread on 4 slices of bread. Top each with a layer of turkey then sauerkraut then Swiss. Top with the remaining slices of bread. Melt the butter in a skillet and cook each side until golden brown, covering briefly if needed to warm the sandwich through. Slice and serve.

My thoughts:
When I had faux Thanksgiving last month, we ended up with a lot turkey leftover. I like the traditional cranberry sauce + turkey sandwich but I wanted to try something different. Since I live in Baltimore, I had plenty of sauerkraut leftover so reubens sprung to mind. I normally don't like them at restaurants because they are invariably made with Thousand Island dressing (both incorrect and yucky) and/or too big and greasy. Making them at home was awesome. The Russian dressing was quick to put together and only involved ingredients I always have on hand. It added a zippy flavor that sort of tied into sauerkraut much better than the cloying, bland bottled dressing you often get in delis.

Quick tip: let the turkey and sauerkraut sit out a few minutes before making the sandwiches. It helps them cook through more quickly.

November 24, 2010

Figgy Cranberry Sauce

12 oz whole cranberries
6 dried figs, quartered
1 cup orange juice
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 inch knob ginger, grated

Bring the cranberries, ginger, figs, sugar and lemon juice to a boil. Reduce heat then simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir. Serve hot or cold.

My thoughts:
We make cranberry sauce a lot during the months when cranberries are in season. I like them to tie into the central dish and I hate making the same thing again and again so I added figs to this one to coordinate with the fig glazed turkey I make this year. They added a fun texture contrast (love the seeds) and tempered the cranberries' tartness. The leftover sauce keeps for weeks in the fridge and is awesome on sandwiches, either turkey or PB&J. Or of course, cranberry ribbon cake, triple ginger cranberry sauce bread, oatmeal cranberry sauce muffins or cranberry cheesecake squares.

November 22, 2010

Thyme and Portobello Un-Stuffing

25 slices torn sandwich bread
2 large onions, diced
1 bunch celery, diced
1/2 cup chicken or turkey stock
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced parsley
4 portobello mushroom caps, diced
1 teaspoon white pepper


In a large pan, saute celery, mushrooms and onions in butter and olive oil over very low heat until the onions are translucent. Do not brown. Add to bread cubes in bowl and add the spices and herbs.

Combine with egg and broth. Form medium-sized balls. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to overnight.

Place balls in the bottom of the roasting pan under the rack and around the turkey (or chicken) on the rack for the last 1/2 hour of roasting and cook until cooked through.

Yield: 8-10 servings
My thoughts:
I love stuffing. Sometimes I make a whole turkey or chicken just so I can make stuffing. Of course, this is technically not "stuffing" but it is way better than the in-a-separate-dish "dressing" people make. It is the best of both worlds: infused with juices from the turkey and crispy around the edges. Yum, yum, yum. My mom made stuffing this way growing up but much plainer. The herbs and meaty mushrooms add a lot to the awesomeness. My brother was so enthralled by it, he packed a baggie full of stuffing scraps to take home.

Also pictured:
slow cooked sauerkraut
hot pepper butternut squash
fig glazed turkey
herbed green & wax beans

November 19, 2010

Fig Glazed Turkey

1 14-16 lb turkey
sea salt
coarsely ground pepper
4 dried figs
1 small onion, quartered
1 small bunch thyme

1/4 cup fig jam
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon minced thyme
1 teaspoon grated ginger

Preheat oven to 325. Place the turkey on the rack and position in the roasting pan. Whisk together the glaze ingredients or pulse them in the blender. Brush over the bird. Sprinkle the turkey thoroughly with salt and pepper. Stick the figs, onion and sprig of thyme in the cavity of the turkey. Roast for about 3 hours or until the juices run clear and the leg is easily wiggled. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before carving.

My thoughts:
We had my brother and his girlfriend over for our annual Faux Thanksgiving so I could develop these recipes to share. I was a little nervous about my theme* this year, figs, because I've found they are not something people always enjoy or are familiar with outside of the Newton. I shouldn't have worried because they really liked it! The glaze helps sell in the juices of the turkey and eliminated the need for basting, which I appreciate. The skin was slightly sticky but not in a bad way. I'd rather have a glazed skin than a dried out bird! Stuffing the cavity with fruit and vegetables instead of stuffing makes for a moister turkey as well. There is still air circulation (yay for no food poisoning!) but it generates some steam that seems to help.

*I do a theme each year because 1. it is fun 2. it helps with planning/shopping when you can use the same ingredient in more than one dish. Look for another figgy recipe next week!

November 17, 2010

Slow Cooked Sauerkraut

28 oz sauerkraut
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon charnushka (aka black caraway or kalonji)
1 1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 small onion, thinly sliced

Place all ingredients in a 2 or 4 quart slow cooker. Stir to evenly distribute all ingredients. Cook on low 8 hours or 4 hours on high. Stir. Serve hot.

My thoughts:
I know I've mentioned it before but it wasn't until I was in college that I realized not everyone has sauerkraut at Thanksgiving. It really is a Baltimore thing, probably the result of the large number of German immigrants that settled here although other areas with similar populations did not adopt the sauerkraut tradition. I guess I am biased, but sauerkraut is perfect for Thanksgiving. It goes great with turkey and cuts the sweetness of the cranberry sauce and some side dishes. In recent years, I've started to make it in the slow cooker, which is I think is one of my more clever holiday ideas. While sauerkraut is easy to make on the stove, it does take up an extra burner and is prone to scorching if you don't keep an eye on it. No worries in the slow cooker. Last year I made a porky version but this year I created a vegetarian (well, vegan, actually) recipe that I think might be even better. The other one was still very, very good but I am not sure if it is the absence of pork or the addition of new spices but this was great; pickle-y but not too sour and with just the right amount of fresh herbs and spices to keep it from tasting too flat and one dimensional.

As an aside, here is a Mencken story that mentions Baltimore's love of sauerkraut at Thanksgiving.

November 15, 2010

Hot Pepper Butternut Squash

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 jalapenos, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed
1 teaspoon pepper sherry
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

for the seeds:
seeds from the squash
1/4 cup sea salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Saute the shallot, peppers and squash until the shallot is translucent. Add the remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until the squash is fork tender.

Meanwhile: Place the butternut seeds in a large pot. Fill halfway with water. Add salt. Bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Drain. Sprinkle lightly with olive oil, then the spices. Stir to evenly distribute spice. Place in a single layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Stir the seeds then bake for an additional 5 minutes or until they no longer look wet are instead toasted and crunchy looking.

Sprinkle the seeds over the squash and serve.

My thoughts:
Butternut squash is perhaps the most popular of the winter squashes to make at home. It is easy to make it the same way over and over again but I wanted to try something completely different than the usual. Rather than giving into the natural sweetness, I went with contrasting flavors that were inspired by Caribbean cuisine. It was a big hit with everyone.

I love roasted butternut squash seeds (possibly even more than pumpkin!) because they puff up a bit and have a great "pop" when you bite down on them. They make a great garnish.

Tips: Make it easy on yourself and cube and peel the butternut squash the day before you want to use it. You can roast the seeds ahead of time too.

Keep an eye on the squash as it cooks and add more water if needed, the sugars in the squash can caramelize quickly which can turn into the cubes sticking to the pan.

November 12, 2010

Sweet Potato Rolls


for the rolls:
4 cups flour
1 cup mashed roasted sweet potato
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 oz dry yeast
2 eggs, at room temperature

In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the water. Using an electric mixer with a dough hook combine the yeast, butter, water, sugar, egg and sweet potato. Add the flour and mix on low until smooth. The mixture should become a sticky dough at this time but it shouldn't feel damp or look wet. If it does, mix in a small amount of flour. Knead on a floured surface or in a stand mixer until smooth but still slightly sticky. Place the ball of dough in a buttered bowl. Cover with a tea towel or loose plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes or until it doubles in size.

Preheat oven to 350. Remove dough from bowl and break into 10 even pieces. Roll each into a ball. Place in two 9 inch round cake pans that have been lightly sprayed with nonstick baking spray, forming a circle with one roll in the middle. Allow to rise for 20 minutes.

Bake for 15 minutes or until fully cooked. Remove to a wire rack to cool for a minute then invert and pull apart to serve.

My thoughts:
Oh my, these were good. I am honestly not a huge fan of sweet potatoes, they are just too, well, sweet for me to eat at a regular meal. Too dessert-y. However, everyone else I know likes them so I am always trying to find a new way to use them that everyone (including me!) can enjoy. These completely fit the bill. They were a lovely light orange color and tasted like sweet potatoes but were still firmly a savory dinner roll. They were great spread with butter along side dinner but I am imagining leftovers transformed into rolls for sandwiches. They were wonderfully light and fluffy but substantial enough to hold some serious filling.

Note: This is a really forgiving recipe. Letting it rise for longer than the times listed here is perfectly fine.

November 10, 2010

Oyster Stew

1 lb oysters with liqour
1 large onion, chopped
1 large russet potato, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 habanero pepper, chopped
1 cup diced smoked ham
24 oz evaporated milk
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

Heat the butter or oil in a dutch oven or large pot. Saute the onion, pepper, potato, celery and ham until the vegetables are softened. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the oysters are cooked through.

My thoughts:
This past weekend we went to the oyster festival in St. Michaels. One of the events was a oyster stew competition. For $5 you got a mug and could try 8 different stews then cast your vote. I honestly had never had oyster stew before but I liked it a lot. There was one that I loved but all of them were pretty similar. They were also pretty rich; lots of cream and butter. Which, to me, overpowered some of the oyster flavor. After the 6th or 7th sample, I even started to feel a little queasy. When I noticed that local oysters were under $7 a pound at our local Safeway, I figured I'd try to make an oyster stew that was both flavorful and not so heavy. To help accomplish that goal, I turned to one of my favorite ingredients: evaporated milk. I love it because, undiluted, it is super creamy and rich tasting but not heavy at all. In this case, I thinned it out with a bit of 2% milk and really liked the result. It didn't taste "canned" (the biggest fear I find people have about using evaporated milk) and it really let the oyster's flavor shine through. Some of the stews we tasted had bacon but I didn't really like the texture it had in the stew and it seemed to make the stew kind of oily. I liked the idea of a smoky flavor so I added some lean ham from one of those spiral sliced hams that are so readily available right now. It did exactly what I wanted: smoky flavor with no extra fat.

November 08, 2010

Kadota Fig & Candied Ginger Jam

3 lbs Kadota figs, stems removed and finely chopped (about 4 cups)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
1/4 cup diced crystallized candied ginger
3 ounces liquid pectin (one pouch)

Prep the jars/lids. Place the figs, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pectin and candied ginger. Boil 5 minutes. Fill and seal the jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Yield: about 5 8-oz jars

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

*I used bottled lemon juice instead of fresh because figs are a low acid fruit and I wanted to make sure that the acid content was high enough to safely use the hot water method. The acidity of fresh lemons can vary but the acidity of bottled lemon juice is constant.

My thoughts:
Kadota figs have light green skins and pretty pink centers. Like most figs they are pretty sweet but I think they have a more floral, almost honey-like flavor than other varieties I've tried. I had some really good candied ginger and thought it would work well with this particular fig. Of course, I am a big ginger fan anyway but it kept the jam from being crazy sweet while at the same time keeping the floral note. I also liked how the ginger and fig ended up with similar textures which made for great spreadablity. I look forward to using this jam in other recipes. I think it would make an awesome filling for cookies.

November 05, 2010

Herbed Purple & Wax Beans

1 1/2 lb mixture of wax and purple beans
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons minced thyme
1 teaspoon minced parsley
olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

In a skillet, saute the garlic and shallot in olive oil until translucent. Add the beans, lemon juice and zest. Cook until the beans are tender, just a few minutes. Sprinkle with herbs and spices. Stir to coat.

My thoughts:
This is one of those recipes when less is really more. I love when wax and purple beans come back in season in the fall because it lets me put off switching to squash as my sole local fruit for vegetable for a couple of weeks. Not that I dislike squash but that's pretty much all that is available until April, so I like to take advantage of whatever is still in season. Plus they are just so fresh and crisp, I don't know anyone who could resist them. Purple beans do lose their color as they cool so if they are tender enough, I just barely heat them through so they stay as purple as possible. I don't think they need much more than a simple dressing of lemon juice and herbs to make them sing. Just take care not to over cook.

November 03, 2010

Mac + Cheese with Tomato + Bacon

12 oz evaporated milk
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
2 cup shredded extra sharp, aged cheddar
1/3 cup panko
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 slices thick cut bacon, crumbled
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz canned, diced tomatoes, drained
1 lb small or medium sized pasta, cooked

In a medium skillet, heat a small amount of olive oil. Saute the onion and garlic until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and heat through. In a small, dry skillet, quickly toast the panko.

In a medium pan, melt the butter. Add the flour along with a sprinkle of nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir until smooth. Add the milk and evaporated milk and whisk together until slightly thickened. Whisk in the cheddar until smooth. Pour over the drained pasta. Add the tomato mixture and bacon; stir to evenly distribute. Pour into lightly oiled baking dish. Top with a sprinkle of panko. Bake covered about 15 minutes, then uncover and cook until hot and bubbly, about 10-15 additional minutes.

Yield: about 4-6 meal sized servings, 8-10 side dish sized servings

My thoughts:
Years ago an older lady lived across the street from my mother. She was really nice (in fact she gave me my first slow cooker!) and we would visit her and my mom would take her shopping and out to lunch. To repay us (not that she had to) she would occasionally make this macaroni and cheese that was unlike any mac and cheese that I had ever had. It had bacon and a tomato-y sauce. I never did get the recipe but I've thought of it fondly over the years and thought I'd try to recreate it with a few of my own touches. It actually ended up being pretty much nothing like her mac and cheese beyond the bacon and tomato additions but I think she'd like it just as much. It is creamy and flavorful and surprisingly, not as heavy as you would think. The perfect comfort food to help ease into the colder months.

November 01, 2010

Roasted Pork & Asian Pears

4 Asian pears (I used Saitama), peeled and sliced
2 1/2 lb boneless pork roast
1/2 lb pearl onions*
2 tablespoon five spice powder
1/2 cup white wine or shaoxing
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle the pork on all sides with the spices. Heat oil in a stovetop and oven safe dutch oven. Add the onions and pears and saute until the onions start to brown. Push the onions and pears to the sides of the pan and add the pork. Cook to slightly brown each side. Add the wine. Roast for 40 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Slice and serve. The juices make a great gravy, if you are into that sort of thing.

*I get bored too easily to peel tiny onions so I just use (undefrosted) frozen. They can be tricky to find but most stores seem to carry them during the holiday season. Stock up!

My thoughts:
I love Asian pears of pretty much any variety. We bought some locally grown ones at the farmers market but I've seen them sold at the regular supermarket as well. I've seen them labeled as "apple pears" due to their apple like crisp crunch and round shape but they are, indeed, a variety of pear. They hold their shape better than most regular pears do during long cooking time. They are also not terribly sweet so I feel free to use them in relatively savory ways. At any rate, this is a delightful, if slightly unphotogenic dish. Truly one of my better pork roast recipes; rustic yet flavorful. The pork was so tender, it practically melted beneath my fork. Not bad for a recipe with virtually no hands on time and very few ingredients. And it made the whole house smell fantastic!

October 29, 2010

Fried Pickle Chips with Zippy Feta Dipping Sauce

16 oz sliced pickles, drained
2/3 cup Instant Blending Flour*
2/3 cup cornmeal
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

for the dipping sauce
8 oz sour cream (reduced fat is okay)
4 oz crumbled feta
1/4 cup minced chives
3 tablespoons mayonnaise or buttermilk (if needed to thin out the sauce)
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

canola oil for frying


Mix together all dipping sauce ingredients. Set aside. Heat about 1/2 to 1 inch of oil in a large, shallow skillet, enough to cover the pickles. Meanwhile pour the egg, flour and cornmeal into separate shallow bowls. Stir the the spices to the cornmeal. Stir the Worcestershire sauce into the egg. Dredge each pickle in the flour, then in the egg then the cornmeal. Drop the pickle slices into the hot oil, taking care that they do not overlap or bump into each other. Cook until golden on all sides, about 1 minute. They should float to the top when ready and not need to be flipped. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

*aka Wondra flour. It is very fine and dissolves easily in water (or in this case, doesn't make the pickles too thick with flour). Use all purpose if you have to.

My thoughts:
Fried pickles are a bit of a Southern thing but they can be found on menus else where. I've had several different varieties including ones breaded with panko, bread crumbs and even crackers but I think the best flavored ones have a cornmeal crust. The slightly sweet flavor complements the salty pickle. I've heard complaints about the difficulty of getting the cornmeal to stick to the pickle but this is a fool-proof recipe. The trick is thoroughly dredging in super fine powder before the egg dip and resisting the urge to soak the pickle in anything other than pickle juice. Ranch dressing is a bit more traditional but I had it with a cheesy dip before and I liked the combination a lot so I developed a robust a zesty feta sauce to go with them. It was the perfect partner.

October 27, 2010

Pumpkin Black Bottoms

for the filling:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
6 oz miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg, at room temperature

for the batter:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350.
for the filling:
Cream together the pumpkin, cream cheese and sugar. Beat in egg until well mixed. Fold in chocolate chips. Set aside.

for the batter:
Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa and baking soda in a large bowl. Add water, oil, vanilla and vinegar. Beat VERY thoroughly. Line mini muffin pans. Fill pans less then 2/3 full with chocolate batter. Do not overfill. Drop approximately 1/2 teaspoon of the filling on top. Bake on the center rack for 20 minutes or until toothpick stuck in the center of a center cupcake comes out clean. Cool briefly in the pans on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely.

Yield: 6 dozen

My thoughts:
Black bottoms are a major holiday tradition in my family. My mom has been making pretty much the same recipe since I was born. She even makes a double or triple batch (216 black bottoms!) and freezes and gives them away. I generally stick to the six dozen which is still a lot. They do freeze so I just stash whatever we don't eat in the freezer. Having a pan that makes two dozen at a time helps too. Anyway, I realized I hadn't made a treat for Halloween yet so I thought I'd try making a fall version of our usual black bottom. It turned out so well! Sort of a cross between the pumpkin cheesecake brownie I created a few years ago and our traditional black bottom. Delicious and seasonal.

October 25, 2010

Spicy Smoked Turkey

13-14 lb turkey
olive oil

for the dry rub:
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons hot paprika
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/4 teaspoon celery seed

mesquite grilling wood chips

In a small bowl, whisk together the dry rub ingredients. Pour some olive oil over the turkey. Rub in the dry rub. Arrange the coals around a rectangular foil pan filled with water. Place the turkey over the pan on the grill. Place a foil packet of wood chips on the coals.

Vent/leave the lid askew until it really starts smoking. Then cover. Cook, adding loose coals and wood chips every 30 minutes, until fully cooked. Rotate the turkey every other coal add or so.

To keep the smoke/low heat going, occasionally vent until it gets smoky then fully cover again. Refill the pan with water as needed. All in all, it should take about 3 1/2-4 hours to be fully cooked. Allow to sit on a platter under a foil tent for 5 minutes before carving.

My thoughts:
This is by far the biggest thing we've ever grilled. I had the idea at about 4 pm on a Saturday, Matt ran to the store and by a little after 4:30 it was on the grill. It was dark by the time it was finished cooking (so excuse the slightly funky looking photographs) but that was okay, it required little in the way of attention so we just hung out inside and dashed out periodically to add more coals and wood chips.

Onto more important tastes amazing! The skin was crisp, the dry rub added heat and it was perfectly smoked. Perfectly! The meat was juicy and tender in a way that

October 22, 2010

Lasagna with Homemade Basil Noodles and Sausage-Tomato Sauce


for the sauce:
2 lb bulk Italian sausage (casing removed if necessary)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cubanelle pepper, minced
56 oz canned coarse ground tomatoes
14 oz canned diced tomatoes
6 oz tomato paste
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
red wine (optional)
10 basil leaves

for the pasta:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup finely minced basil
3 eggs

for the filling:
1 lb ricotta
1/2 lb frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cup mixed Italian cheese*
1 egg

extra shredded cheese for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Start the sauce first. Brown the sausage in a large, heavy pot (I used this dutch oven) breaking up any large pieces. When nearly fully cooked, drain off as much fat as possible. Add the onion, garlic and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic, salt and pepper. Simmer as you make the pasta. It should reduce by about an inch and half or so. Add wine if desired periodically. Stir occasionally. When the sauce is cooked, stir in the basil leaves.

for the pasta:
While the sauce is bubbling away, pour the flour onto a clean counter top. Create a well on top and add the eggs. Knead together until a ball forms then work in the basil. Knead until a flexible dough forms. Divide into 9 equal balls. Roll through a pasta machine according to the package instructions. We rolled ours out through #5, rolling at each level twice on this machine. Hang until you are ready to use them.

for the filling:
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

Ladle a even layer of sauce over the bottom of a standard 9x13 inch pan, covering it thoroughly. Arrange three noodles in a single layer. Top with 1/2 of the cheese mixture then ladle more sauce on top. Repeat. Top for the remaining three noodles and cover with sauce.

Sprinkle with cheese. Cover in foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake an additional 30 minutes or until heated through. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes before slicing.

*I used a shredded six cheese blend that included Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Fontina, Romano and aged Asiago.

My thoughts:
This was a fun weekend food project. We planned out what we wanted to do and was on sauce and filling duty while Matt rolled the pasta out. It was surprisingly easy! Why has it taken so long for us to make fresh pasta for the first time. It didn't take as long as I would have thought and I think with practice we will get every faster. I think lasagna was a good first homemade pasta experiment because it was not only delicious (I loved the hint of basil) but we didn't have to bother boiling the noodles before using them because they were going to be baked buried in sauce. It sounds silly but eliminating that one step was great, I went right from finishing the noodles to layering to popping it in the oven with no lag time. Let me tell you, it was a spectacular lasagna. The sauce was complexly flavored, the noodles were awesome and well, we liked it so much, we had it for dinner twice vs. our usual leftovers for lunch/frozen for later new food for dinner routine. Yum. I already want to make it again.

Note: while it looks like a lot of sauce, I promise you will end up using all of it!

If you use sausage in your pasta dishes, enter this Johnsonville contest.

October 20, 2010

Stayman-Winesap Apple Butter

10 Stayman Winesap apples, sliced
1 cup apple cider
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Place all ingredients in a 4 quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. Vent by placing the lid on askew and cook on low for an additional 10-12 hours or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the cinnamon stick then pour the mixture into the food processor and puree. Cool completely and refrigerate up to 3 weeks or ladle when warm into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace and process in a hot water canner for 10 minutes.

Yield: about 5 8-oz jars.

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
Stayman-Winesap apples are my absolute favorites. When I was growing up my grandpop could buy a bushel and store them on his (enclosed) basement steps. This year I decided to follow in his footsteps and we bought a bushel of apples at our local farmers market. Stayman-Winesaps normally show up on "cooking" and "baking" apple lists but I like them out of hand and spread with peanut butter or topped with sharp cheddar. I'd be content with that but since I have so many, apple butter seemed to be the thing to make. I came up with the 24 hour slow cooker fruit butter method a few years ago and it is by far many favorite method. No stirring, no scorching, no hands-on work needed except for the apple slicing (made easy with an apple slicer) and it makes your house smell amazing for a whole day. I made a batch of pear butter (recipe to come) at the same time and it really felt like fall. Try apple butter on muffins, rolls, toast, pancakes or as an ingredient in sauces, sandwiches, or baked goods. So versatile and so delicious.