December 31, 2012

Bacon & Broccoli Risotto

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups bite sized pieces of broccoli
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/3 cup Parmesan, grated
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon butter
zest one lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan Saute the garlic and onion until lightly caramelized. Add the rice, salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring continually. Add the broth a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, and waiting until the liquid is absorbed before each addition. When you are about half way through the broth, add the broccoli to the rice.
Continue to add broth and stir. When the risotto is creamy and the rice is al dente remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan, bacon and zest.

My thoughts:
I was having a slightly embarrassing craving for the cheesy rice with broccoli I probably had once as a child and which was probably a boil-in-a-bag concoction, and thought I'd take the grown-up route and make risotto instead. It was very creamy and hit the spot the way the original was but was suitable to serve for a whole meal.

Note: I made extra bacon one day for breakfast so I didn't have to fuss with making the bacon before making the risotto. It really saved time on a weeknight!

December 28, 2012

Lucky Black-eyed Peas with Escarole and Ham

1 lb dried black-eyed peas
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cayenne peppers, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups ham stock
1 lb cubed hickory smoked ham
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon hot paprika
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 medium head escarole, cut into bite-sized pieced

The night before you want to serve the dish, place the black-eyed peas in a 4 quart slow cooker. Fill it with water. Cover and allow to sit overnight. Drain, return the black-eyed peas to the pot and add the spices, ham, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, onion, peppers, garlic, and celery. Stir. Cook on low 8-10 hrs. One hour before you would like to serve, stir in the escarole. It might look like it won't fit in the slow cooker but a few stirs should be enough to incorporate it. Cover and continue to cook*. Serve as-is or over cooked white rice.

*If you are pressed on time at night, you can add the escarole in the morning but it will be quite soft by dinnertime.

Tip: If you have time in the morning, lightly brown the ham on all sides to bring out the flavor before adding it to the slow cooker.

My thoughts:
This recipe is a good luck powerhouse! Black-eyed peas are frequently served on New Year's Day because they swell (or look like coins, depending on your source) when cooked symbolized growth and prosperity in the coming year. Cabbage or collards is frequently served as well as it symbolizes paper money. I swapped another leafy green, escarole, for the cabbage but the sentiment is the same. The last bit of luck comes from the ham which is said to be lucky because pigs are portly, symbolizing prosperity and they "root forward" symbolizing progress.

I made this recipe so it is a bit soupy, perfect for serving over rice or mopping up with crusty bread.

December 26, 2012

Ham & Potato 16 Bean Soup

1 lb mixed dried beans*
6 cups chicken or ham stock
2 cups cubed ham
2 medium carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cubanelle pepper, diced
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon chervil
1 bay leaf
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

The night before you want to eat the soup, place the beans in a 6-quart slow cooker. Fill the slow cooker insert with water, covering the beans by at least 2 inches. I normally fill the insert nearly to the top. Cover and allow the beans to soak overnight (with the slow cooker turned off).

The next morning, drain the beans and return them to the pot, discarding the water.

Add the vegetables, ham, spices and stock. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Stir and serve.

Variation: If I'm home, I like to brown the ham and add half at the beginning and half about halfway through the cooking time. I think that yields a slightly hammier finished product but both are good.

*Look for these with the rest of the beans. This time I used a 16 bean mix (instead of my usual 15 bean, 16 bean contains barley!). Here they are pre-soak to give you an idea what the mix includes:

My thoughts:
This is a great way to use up leftover ham. I had one of those spiral sliced hams and it never seems like the spiral extends down far enough and there is always a lot of perfectly good, lean ham down near the bottom. I've taken to hacking it off and tucking it away for when I need cubed ham and serving the slices for dinner and sandwiches. So much better than just tossing it like I've seen hostesses do. It was a hickory smoked ham so added great flavor to this rich, comforting soup.

December 24, 2012

Rödbetssallad (Swedish Creamy Beet Salad)

3 large cooked beets, cubed and cooled
1 large, tart apple, cubed
1 small white onion, diced

1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons grated horseradish
white pepper

Place the beets, apple and onion in a medium bowl. Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Drizzle over the beets. Stir to evenly distribute.
Note: To save time boil or roast the beets the day before and refrigerate the beets overnight.

My thoughts:
I love beet salads. I know some people are beet-phobic but I don't know why! Beets are sweet but not overly so, they are good for you and they dye everything they touch pink. Win-win-win, in my book. I especially like beet salad and it seems like nearly every European cuisine I research has some version of a beet salad. You might remember the Polish beet salad I made this year for Thanksgiving.

While I was at Lucia Fest at the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia last year, I had these beet salad and within the week, I recreated it at home. The secret ingredient is the horseradish. It is nose clearing and adds quite a kick to a salad that otherwise could be sweet. I've seen versions that call for mustard instead of horseradish (if you do that, spring for the good, Swedish stuff) but the version I had definitely had horseradish. The apple provide a welcome and some times unexpected (it is difficult to tell the beet from the apple under the dressing) crunch. The perfect light(ish) side dish for the holidays and a fixture on the julbord.

One fun note: I've seen pictures of this salad on open-faced leftover meatball sandwiches (köttbullar smörgås). Yum!

December 21, 2012

Cardamom Rubbed Duck with Pomegranate Sauce

1 5 lb duck

for the dry rub:
zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon cardamom
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

for the sauce:
1 small onion, diced
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
3 cups pomegranate arils
1/2 cup duck or chicken stock
olive oil or rendered duck fat

Preheat oven to 325. Whisk together the rub the dry rub into the skin of the duck. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours. Reduce heat to 325. Place the duck on a roasting rack on a roasting pan and roast for 2 hours or until cooked though.

Heat the oil or fat in a saucepan and saute the onions and red pepper flakes until the onions are translucent. Add the stock and 2 cups the pomegranate arils. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens. Stir in the remaining arils. Drizzle over roasted duck.

My thoughts:
This is a really simple yet festive dish. Perfect for a small holiday gathering.

December 19, 2012

Eggnog Overnight Spiced French Toast with Cranberries

1 day-old French batard (about 1 lb) sliced into 1/2-3/4 inch slices
5 eggs
3/4 cup eggnog
1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup black rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon Vietnamese cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries


Spray with baking spray a 9x13 pan. Arrange bread slices in a single layer in the pan. Set aside. Whisk together eggs, milk, eggnog, vanilla paste, rum and spices until well combined. Pour mixture over bread. Turn bread slices to coat. Sprinkle with cranberries. Cover lightly with foil and refrigerate overnight (about 8 hours). Preheat oven to 400. Bake 10 minutes. Turn bread over and continue baking until just golden, around 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
My thoughts:
I have to admit, I'm not the biggest French toast fan. I like it stuffed, generally, but plain French toast normally doesn't appeal to me. This French toast however, is amazing! The bread gets almost custardy from the long soak in the eggnog mixture but it still gets nice and brown (and crispy!) during the baking process. This is my new go-to fancy breakfast for busy mornings. Or I could start the soak in the morning and have breakfast for dinner!

Sorry about the Instagram-like nature of the picture, we are experiencing a bit of a lighting crisis here in the Rappaport kitchen and it has been horribly dark out.

December 17, 2012

Pom-Pom Jam

7 cups supremed pomelo segments (from about 4 pomelos)
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup pomegranate arils (from 1 pomegranate)
1/2 box liquid pectin (3 oz., one of the little packets in the box)

Prep jars/lids for canning. Add the pomelo segments and zest into a large, heavy bottomed pan. Add the sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring carefully to avoid splashing, break up the segments, occasionally. Boil until it begins to reduce and thicken. Stir in the pectin and pomegranate. Continue cooking at a low (rolling) boil for 5-10 minutes or until it looks thick and jammy. Fill the jars leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Process in the hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Yield: about 7 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:
When I found myself in possession of a bunch of lovely pomelos and 14 cups (yes, you read that correctly, 14 cups) of pomegranate arils, I really wanted to make something using the two together. I had a hunch that pomelo's tart citrus would complement the sweet juiciness of the pomegranate. Pomelos are normally greenish yellow inside so I was surprised when I cut into them and they were bright pink! This only confirmed that I had to bring pomelo and pomegranate together.

Pomelo segments easily supreme and naturally break into smaller pieces which is perfect for jam making. They also have a ton of pith and a thin skin but since we are making jam and not marmalade, that isn't much of an issue; there is just a lot of flesh to cut off to get to the fruit. I prepped the pomelo the night before (the pomegranate had long been processed, the arils can keep for a month in the fridge) so the next day, I just had to pop in the pot. This made jam making a much less daunting task in the morning! From cooking to jars cooling, it only took about 40 minutes.

Most of the pomegranate arils held their shape and like they do in most dishes, they explode when you bite into them, which is slightly unexpected in jam, but very fun. The few that did burst, helped turn the the jam a lovely deep pink.

So, go check out your local store and pick up some pomelos (aka pummelo or pommelo, this huge fruit tastes like a sweet grapefruit and was one of the first citrus fruits)and pomegranates while they are in season.

December 14, 2012

Dark Chocolate + Candy Cane Bits Cookies

1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
5 oz semi-sweet Hershey Baking Melts OR dark chocolate disks
1/3 cup candy cane bits

Preheat oven to 350. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the melts and candy cane bits. Form cookies by dropping 1 teaspoon of dough on the sheet two inches apart. Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.
Yield: about 2 dozen

Tip: I leave the candy canes in their plastic wrapper and whack them with a rolling pin to create the bits. Then I "unwrap" them into a bowl or measuring cup.

My thoughts:
My mom brought me back these Hershey Baking Melts from Chocolate World at Hershey Park and then next thing you know, I found them at the regular supermarket! If you can't find them, I think some dark chocolate disks could be a good substitute. The best part of these cookies is the large chunks of chocolate so while chips would work, something with some heft is better. I really enjoyed the flavor, texture and melty-ness of the "melts" but I will say their size and flattish shape made them tricky to scoop with my cookie scoop and I ended up with rather large cookies. Which is fine with me, but the total yield wasn't as many as I could of eked out using regular chocolate chips. But! You do get a big shot of gooey chocolate in every bite so I think it is worth the minor hassle. I've been candy cane crazy this year so I stirred some into the dough which added a jolt of peppermint that was delicious and refreshing but not overwhelmingly "PEPPERMINT", just a lovely holiday note in an otherwise pretty straightforward cookie. I don't want to give the impression that straightforward is a bad thing. It isn't at all. These are very, very good cookies. We ate nearly all of them in about three days.

December 12, 2012

Potato-Rutabaga Horseradish Latkes

4 cups grated Russet potatoes
1 1/2 cups grated rutabaga
1 medium onion, grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup matzo meal
1 1/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
canola oil

In a large cast iron skillet or other heavy bottomed pan, heat about 1/4 inch oil.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, spices, horseradish and the matzo meal. Add potato, rutabaga and onion. Toss to combine. Form into flat patties. Fry in hot oil, flipping half way through, until just golden. Drain on paper towel lined plates.
Yield: about a dozen latkes, depending on size.

My thoughts:
You have to love a holiday that encourages the making and eating of fried foods. So yesterday we lit the candles, turned on the stove and fried up some latkes. The last few Hanukkahs I've pulled out the mandolin to shred the potatoes but this year I went old school and used the box grater. It really works well. If your potatoes weep a lot, drain them and pat them dry before frying.

Rutabaga naturally shreds finely and was easy to evenly distribute in the potato mixture. It also adds a bit of crunch and a peppery taste. I love horseradish so I threw some of that in too. It gave some zip without being overpowering. We enjoyed them with sour cream.

December 11, 2012

Gingerbread Kisses

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 roll (30 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated gingerbread cookie dough
1 bag (13 oz) KISSES® dark chocolates, unwrapped


Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together the spices and sugar in small bowl. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar mixture to coat. Place 2 inches apart on lined baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges of cookies just begin to brown. Immediately press a candy into center of each cookie. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

My thoughts:
Pillsbury asked me and a few other food bloggers to create some recipes using their refrigerated cookie dough. I had pitched some ideas for cookies and this one, Gingerbread Kisses, uses their limited edition gingerbread cookie dough. I'd seen it at the stores in years past starting in early November so I never dreamed I'd have a hard time finding it. It was the week before Thanksgiving and by the end of it, we had gone to nearly 20 supermarkets and big box stores looking for it to no avail. Finally, through the magic of Facebook, a high school friend of mine told me that she saw it at a store in Westminster, about a hour away. My tireless cookie search partner/husband checked a couple of more stores slightly closer to home then drove out to western Maryland and finally bought a tube. A cry of relief went out across the city that day.

It was worth it though because this cookie has been the favorite of all of the Pillsbury cookies I made this year according to my cookie tasters. The gingerbread dough is rolled in some extra spices and sugar and then a dark chocolate Kiss is placed on top. Simple but full of complex flavors.

Lemon Bites

5 tablespoons white sparkling sugar
1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated sugar cookies
12 oz prepared lemon curd*
3 tablespoons lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 24-well mini muffin tin with paper liners. Pour sparkling sugar into a small bowl.

Roll tablespoons of dough to form a ball. Roll the dough balls in the sparkling sugar and place in the lined muffin tin. Repeat for remaining dough.

Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. An indentation will naturally appear in the center of each cookie cup. Allow to cool completely in the pan.

Spoon a teaspoon of lemon curd into the center of each cookie. Sprinkle with lemon zest.

*Or make your own.
My thoughts:
When Pillsbury asked me and some other food bloggers to come up with some creative recipes using refrigerated dough, I thought it would be fun to try and make something that was as "uncookie" as possible. I did some experimenting with a giant tube of cookie dough and was excited to find out that if I rolled it into a ball and popped it into a mini muffin tin it would rise then fall forming the perfect cookie cup. I rolled the dough in white sparkling sugar for a little pizzazz and crunch. I filled it with lemon curd and topped with some zest for a extra burst of lemon flavor. These were really simple to make (especially if you use a good quality store bought curd) but they are really delicious and impressive looking.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Balls

1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated peanut butter cookies
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ cup cocoa

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Place on the cookie sheets spacing each cookie 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until slightly browned and “set” in the middle. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

Line a platter or cookie sheet with waxed paper. Whisk together cocoa and confectioners’ sugar in a shallow bowl.

Place the cookies in a food processor and pulse them until they are fine crumbs. Pour the crumbs into a medium bowl and stir in the peanut butter. Mix until a uniform texture is reached.

Roll the mixture into 1 inch balls. Roll each ball in the cocoa and sugar mixture. Place on waxed paper lined platter and refrigerate 1 hour prior to serving.

Refrigerate leftovers.

My thoughts:
Pillsbury asked a few bloggers to come up with some quick and easy recipes using their refrigerated dough. Normally I make my cookies from scratch but I can't resist a challenge and I think we've all been in the situation where we need some last minute cookies. Well, during December, any way! These cookies are sort of like a cross between a cookie and a truffle. Crunchy and creamy at the same time they are the perfect treat for peanut butter lovers. If you want to get extra fancy, you could dip them in chocolate but I enjoyed the flavor and ease of rolling them in cocoa.

December 10, 2012

Knäck (Swedish Toffee)

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup ljus sirap*
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped blanched almonds


Arrange the paper cups on a baking sheet or platter. Set aside.

Whisk together the sugar, syrup, butter and cream in a heavy bottomed 2 quart saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture forms a firm "hard" ball when dropped into a glass of very cold water. Stir in nuts and divide quickly into very small paper candy cups.

*Swedish light syrup. I buy it at Ikea or stores that sell European and/or Scandinavian ingredients. Golden syrup is an acceptable substitute.

Yield: about 30 candies

My thoughts:
Knäck translates into "crack" which makes sense because this thick toffee is quite crisp and cracks when you bite into it. It has a almost burnt sugar flavor to it thanks to the syrup and the almonds provide a delicious, nutty crunch. It is the perfect addition to a holiday dessert table.

The candy is easy to make and in small batches like this one (you can double this recipe successfully) it cooks up very quickly. The most difficult part is pouring the mixture into the cups. They are quite small and easily tip over. The liquid is also very, very hot yet cools rapidly so one has to work very quickly to fill the cups before the mixture cools and hardens. I transferred my molten mixture into a large, glass measuring cup with a lip for easy pouring. Take care, you don't want to burn yourself for the sake of candy!

Note: The candy should be made in tiny waxed paper cups. I find mine at Ikea during the wintertime but I've seen similar sized cups at candy supply shops. Any store that sells Swedish cooking and baking items should have them in stock as well. They are about 1/2 the size of a mini muffin liner.

December 07, 2012

Gingerbread (Bread)

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon tangerine zest
1 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon Vietnamese cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground galangal
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/4 cup black rum
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature


Preheat oven to 350. Spray loaf pan with baking spray. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, vanilla paste, oil, zest sugar and molasses until well combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and rum. Beat in the dry mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture, mixing well with each addition.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 45-55 minute or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Cool in pan 5 minutes then invert into a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners sugar if desired.

My thoughts:
Last year I received this neat gingerbread loaf pan but didn't get a chance to use it before the holidays and well, making gingerbread outside of December seems a little wrong. It was worth the wait! I'm always a little nervous using shaped pans, especially for a moist bread like this but it came out beautifully. A loaf is the perfect size for us as well, a whole cake is a little daunting but this bread is just right.

The bread is very fragrant and has just the right amount of spice. I love adding a bit of citrus zest to my gingerbread. I think it perks the flavor up a bit and to me, tangerines just smell like winter holidays. It reminds me of when it would be an immense treat to receive a tangerine or orange in your stocking because they were such a luxury. 

December 05, 2012

Julköttbullar (Swedish Meatballs for Christmas)

1/3 lb very lean ground beef
1/3 lb ground pork
1/3 lb ground veal*
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup milk (or, more traditionally, cream)
1/2 small onion, grated
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
pinch ginger
pinch nutmeg
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the breadcrumbs and milk (cream) in a medium bowl. Allow to soak 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined. Form into very small (walnut-sized) meatballs. Heat some oil in a oven safe pan (I used a cast-iron skillet). Add the meatballs and saute until browned on all sides. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 10-20 minutes or until the meatballs are fully cooked. Serve immediately.

*Or you can use a mix of just beef and pork. I had all three so that is what I used. I found that Swedish cookbooks often suggest a mix of beef and elk(!) but that's a little difficult to find here.
My thoughts:
Last year we went to Lucia Fest at the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia and it re-sparked my interest in making Swedish foods at home. We don't have much in the way of Swedish cuisine here in Baltimore beyond Ikea but whenever I am in NYC, I always visit Swedish restaurants and even better, Sockerbit, the Swedish candy store. I love it but it is much more affordable to make the food at home.

I had read up on (and made a couple!) traditional Christmas foods last year but it was a little too late to share most of the recipes. This year I tracked down some julmust (Swedish Christmas soda) to fortify myself and went about creating some recipes for these Swedish treats.

Perhaps the easiest and most "friendly" recipe are these meatballs. Very similar to köttbullar, the more everyday Swedish meatballs, these are heavily spiked with allspice and are found on the julbord, the Christmas smörgåsbord. Or if you are not up to hosting a full julbord, served with some potatoes, gravy and lingonberry preserves for lunch or dinner. They are so good and simple to make. Some recipes call for just pan frying the meatballs but I think they get crisper and cook more evenly with the method I shared here.

I'm hoping to tackle some more Swedish dishes this season so look for them later this month. In the meantime, check out pepparkakor, a tasty cookie for Christmas and Ärtsoppa (Swedish Yellow Pea Soup) and Kåldolmar (Swedish Stuffed Cabbage) which aren't Christmas recipes per se, but very tasty!

December 03, 2012

Candy Cane Oreo Brownies

7 oz (56%) semisweet chocolate
3 full-sized candy canes, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
12 Candy Cane (or mint) flavored Oreos, broken into large pieces

Preheat oven to 350. Spray with baking spray or grease and flour one 8x8 inch baking pan. In a saucepan, melt the butter, cocoa and chocolate together over low heat. Stir occasionally, and when the chocolate is nearly melted, remove from heat. Whisk until smooth. Set aside. In a small bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat together the brown sugar, sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Slowly stream the chocolate mixture into the eggs and mix to combine. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is thick and glossy. Stir in most of the Oreos and half of the candy cane chunks. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining candy cane bits and Oreos.

Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with one or two crumbs.

My thoughts:
I saw Candy Cane Oreos at the store and couldn't resist picking up a box. I don't normally buy cookies but I will admit to a fondness for holiday Oreos, they are always so fresh tasting and I like the seasonal designs. Unfortunately when I opened this box they were all messed up looking! For a lot of the cookies the Oreo and holiday design side was facing in towards the cream filling so the outside was odd and flat. Some of the cookies only had half of the usual filling, some had extra cookie bits protruding from the side of the cream filling (despite there being no broken cookies in the box) and still more had oddly uneven amounts of filling-half of the cookie would look normal and the other half was nearly flat. That's no fun! They tasted perfectly fine so I didn't want to toss them but they were not a cute as I was hoping. So I decided to make something with them rather than eating them plain.

Most of the recipes for Oreo brownies I've seen call for a box mix but well, I'm already cooking with a store-bought cookie so why would I want to use a mix for the brownie part too? I know some people swear that brownie mix is even better than homemade (gasp) but I don't think you can beat a homemade brownie made with luscious dark chocolate. You do have to melt that chocolate but it is easy, I swear and makes for better, richer brownies than you could hope for from a mix or from using cocoa alone.

I stirred in some candy canes to up the mint flavor and tie in the candy cane flavor of the Oreos and let me tell you, I have never smelled batter that was that mint-chocolate-y before. Yum. The brownies themselves are intensely chocolate with hints of mint and a fudgey but not too fudgey (or worse, dense), creamy texture.

November 30, 2012

New York Street Cart Cinnamon-Sugar Peanuts

1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3 cups unsalted roasted peanuts
1 teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon


Line jelly roll pan with cooking parchment paper. In 12- or 14-inch cast iron skillet,  whisk together sugar, water and vanilla paste.. Stir in peanuts. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to boil, about 5 minutes. Cook, stirring constantly, until liquid reduces and sugar crystallizes on peanuts. Continue to cook and stir until peanuts are crusty looking.

Reduce heat to low; continue to cook and stir as sugar begins to turn to syrup and pool in bottom of skillet. Continuously stir the peanuts into the syrup as it forms. Continue to do this until peanuts are golden brown and well coated, about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle peanuts with cinnamon; toss to evenly distribute. Pour peanuts into pan; spread in single layer, breaking up any large clumps. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Store in an airtight container.

My thoughts:

Food trucks might be the hot food thing of the moment thanks to a mix of low start-up costs, the downturn in the economy and reality television but there is one place that has always excelled in street food. New York City. One cannot walk a block without stumbling over some amazing food cart or bumping into one of the long lines one of the dozens of food trucks attract. You can find anything from biryani to authentic Belgian waffles to Taiwanese-style fried chicken. However, my personal favorite is the fragrant cinnamon nuts one finds on early every street corner during the winter months. At less than $3 dollars these sugared nuts are the perfect, affordable pre-theater snack or Central Park nosh. However, not living in NYC myself, I’ve had to come up with other ways to fill the void. After a few false starts, I was excited to finally figure out the secret of making these nuts at home; lots of sugar and the patience to stir, stir, stir until the perfect crunchy texture is obtained. Now I can make these whenever the mood strikes and for a fraction of the cost of a train ticket to NYC. Bonus: they make great gifts!

November 28, 2012

Mushroom Beef Stew

1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 stalks celery, diced
12 oz cubed crimini mushrooms
1 1/4 lb cubed sirloin or other beef for stew
2 cups beef stock
3 sprigs' worth of fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
super fine flour (like Wondra flour)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Toss the beef with the salt, pepper and some super fine flour to coat. Set aside. Heat some olive oil in a Dutch oven and add the beef, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and herbs. Saute until the beef is lightly browned on all sides and the vegetables are just beginning to soften. Pour the mixture into a 6 quart slow cooker. Add the stock and bay leaf. Cover and cook for 8 hours. Remove the bay leaf prior to serving. Stir.

My thoughts:
Growing up my grandpop always made beef stew. The ingredients always varied because I think he was trying to use up odds and ends and but it was always tasty! He was his hardest critic though because every time he made it he'd say it was better some time before and then tweak it again. I'm sort of the same way, I guess. Stews I've made in the past have always been quite tasty so I'm not trying to improve on them as much as I like to make something new each time. I like variety and honestly, developing and posting recipes for Coconut & Lime (over 1,450 to date) can be a daunting and somewhat grueling task. If I kept making the same thing over and over again, I'd never have anything post!

For this beef stew I took a page from Grandpop and used what we had in the house for the most part. I had rosemary and thyme leftover from other recipes, I always have potatoes, carrots, garlic and celery and I had an enormous box of mushrooms I bought at Costco that had to be used. So I added lots of mushrooms and only had to pick up the beef to round it out. I was careful to cut everything roughly the same size as the beef so it cooked evenly. I was a little worried the rosemary might overwhelm as it is wont to do but it mellowed during cooking and gave a pleasant herbal note to the hearty, rich stew.

November 26, 2012

Cranberry Sauce'd Pulled Pork

2 1/2 lb boneless pork loin
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 jalapenos, chopped
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 sprigs worth fresh thyme
freshly ground black pepper

The night before, place all ingredients in a marinating container or resealable bag. Refrigerate overnight. The next morning, pour everything into a four quart slow cooker. Cook on low 8-10 hours. Shred the pork with two forks (or these claws) in the slow cooker. Toss to evenly distribute the sauce. Serve on rolls.

My thoughts:
You know you still have cranberry sauce. If not still hanging out in the fridge than a can stashed away in the back of a cupboard like a dirty secret. Bring them to light and into your slow cooker. Cranberry sauce is the short cut to flavor for this pulled pork. It adds a slight sweet-tart flavor like barbecue sauce would but isn't as sugary and is more seasonally appropriate. The spices and jalapenos give it a savory kick. Plus it is super easy to pull together, the perfect weeknight meal after a big holiday.

Have even more cranberry sauce? Try this triple ginger cranberry bread, my favorite cranberry ribbon cake,  cranberry oatmeal muffins, and yummy cranberry cheesecake squares.

November 24, 2012

Turkey & Sauerkraut Pierogi

3 cups flour
1 cup cold water
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup finely diced cooked turkey breast
1/2 cup chopped sauerkraut
freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mix together the filling ingredients. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together all of the dough ingredients until a round ball forms.

If the dough 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 (about 3 inch) 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. Repeat until all of the rounds are filled. 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 butter with some onions, just to brown them, before serving. Serve hot with leftover cranberry sauce and sour cream for dipping.

Yield: about 2 1/2 dozen small pierogi

My thoughts:
This year we made a lot of Polish and Eastern European influenced dishes so I thought I'd follow it up with one of my favorite Polish foods, pierogi! I've only made it once before and both times I was struck by how easy it is. The dough is very, very simple and easy to work with and you can fill them with pretty much anything.

We've discussed how Baltimore is really into sauerkraut at Thanksgiving. We like it, we make it, we serve it but we still end up having some leftover. Sauerkraut pierogi are some of my favorites due partially since they are always the last to sell out at the Polish festival* leaving plenty left for me to eat and because I like sauerkraut. Since I was trying to use up leftovers from Thanksgiving, I added some leftover turkey and dipped them in cranberry sauce instead just sour cream. Yum!

*Now being held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, locals! I saw an article in the December (issue #152) Saveur by Jennifer Walker which implied the festival was no more. This isn't true, it just moved indoors and out of the city due to costs.

November 23, 2012

Turkey Chivito Wraps

1 lb roasted turkey breast, sliced
4 thin slices mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup sliced grape tomatoes
4 slices thinly sliced ham
3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
8 slices thick cut bacon, cooked
1/3 cup roughly chopped green olives
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

4 wraps (plain or flavored)

Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise in the wrap leaving a 2-inch border. In center of wraps, layer equal amounts of all ingredients. For each wrap, fold two sides of wrap over filling, then roll tightly, ending seam side down.

My thoughts:
This summer I became obsessed with sandwiches from around the world. I made several and my favorite was the chivito, the national sandwich of Uruguay. The original sandwich calls for steak but when I was thinking of alternative turkey sandwiches, I thought turkey would be a wonderful, lighter substitution. Since I wasn't making a hot sandwich, I thought I'd make another change: turn it into a wrap. I hadn't actually made a wrap before! I'd eaten them before but for some reason, it never occurred to me to make them at home. I didn't realize it before but the tortillas for wraps are more pliable and "sticky" than the kind I buy for burritos or tacos. This makes total sense of course but was exciting anyway, one of the reasons I was a little hesitant of making wraps was that seemed like they'd unroll or something. It seems silly to admit that now!

After all that I'm glad my hunch was correct, the chivito works well both with turkey and as a wrap! Even better than the original, it doesn't need to be served hot and holds up very well for hours, perfect for taking in lunches.

November 21, 2012

Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Filling

4 slices potato bread, toasted and cubed
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
5 cups leftover mashed potatoes (I used leftovers from this)
2 tablespoons parsley
3 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Spray with cooking spray or grease a 8x8 inch baking dish. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the celery and onion and saute until the onion is translucent (do not brown!), about 5 minutes. Add the bread cubes and saute until they are warmed through.

Add the mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients until all ingredients are evenly distributed*. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until piping hot and the top is lightly browned.

*Some mashed potatoes are moister than others. If your mixture looks dry, add some chicken or turkey stock to moisten and thin the mixture out a bit.

My thoughts:
I came across a mention of potato filling in an article about Thanksgiving traditions and regional foods people miss when they move from their hometown. We all know how fond I am of sauerkraut at Thanksgiving so any mention of a quirky regional dish catches my attention. Apparently this is often served at Thanksgiving and sometimes even stuffs the turkey (!) but I thought it was a great way to use up the leftover mashed potatoes that, let's face it, often get dumped. You probably still have some turkey to serve with this but if not, ham or chicken would be tasty too. It is like a crazy homey hybrid of stuffing and mashed potatoes. I took care not to overcook the celery so it provided a good crunch, breaking up the creaminess of the potatoes. It might be a bit homely looking but it is so good and this is coming from a truly rare casserole eater.

November 20, 2012

Escarole Salad with Turkey & Garlic Rubbed Croutons

1 medium head escarole, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups diced cooked turkey breast
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
2 cups large-cubed French bread
1 large clove garlic, halved

1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the bread and saute until browned on all sides. Remove the bread cubes to a paper-towel lined plate. Allow to cool slightly then rub the cut side of the garlic clove on the cubes. Set aside.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Toss with the escarole in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss again. Divide into 2 bowls and serve immediately.

I used one leftover demi baguette for the croutons.
Escarole can be kind of sandy so take care to rinse thoroughly and use a salad spinner.
I sliced my egg with an egg slicer then rotated the egg and sliced it again to form uniform strips.
Keep an eye on those bread cubes! Using the pan is easier than baking them (I think) but they can go from golden to brunt quickly.
My thoughts:
Another Thanksgiving, another set of leftovers recipes! I've already posted two this year but I made a couple more that I really wanted to share. This salad was too delish not to add to the list. It is a great way to use up some odds and ends you might have from other parts of the meal; eggs, turkey and bread in a way that tastes nothing like Thanksgiving.  

Escarole is a awesome alternative to lettuce during the colder months, it is full flavored but not bitter and really at its peak in right now. The dressing was possibly my most favorite dressing to date. It was the definition of umami; not too pungent but full flavored, intensely savory (but not fishy) and thick enough it coated every leaf. The croutons were crunchy but not brittle thanks to the skillet technique and had just the tiniest kiss of garlic that actually contributed a lot to the flavor of the salad. Every bite was just lovely. I'm not the biggest "salad as a meal" fan but I was truly sad to reach the bottom of my (giant) bowl with this one. I can't wait to make it again!

November 19, 2012

Turkey Cobb Salad Sandwich

3/4-1 (loose) cup watercress, roughly chopped (if needed)
1 head romaine, cut up
2 tomatoes, sliced
8 strips cooked thick cut bacon
1 lb sliced roasted turkey breast
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped chives (optional)

4 demi baguettes

for the Cobb spread:
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1 clove garlic, finely minced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Spread one side of each roll with the Cobb spread. Top with a thin layer of Romaine. Layer the egg, turkey, tomato and avocado on one side then top with watercress then sprinkle with chives if using.

Serves 4.

My thoughts:
Thanksgiving leftover recipes are perhaps the recipe I look forward to creating each year. While I love the leftover turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich as much as any one, coming up with clever alternative sandwiches and other recipes is always a fun challenge.

This year, I wanted to use up leftover turkey, Gorgonzola (from my awesome Brussels sprouts dish), some salad odds and ends and bacon leftover from breakfast. My first thought was to make a big salad but then I got to thinking about how it is common to see a Caesar salad-inspired sandwich or wrap but never the Cobb. I think the Cobb makes more sense than Caesar as a sandwich.  It naturally has more sandwich-friendly ingredients like chicken, avocado, tomato and lettuce than the pretty much just lettuce Caesar.

I subbed turkey for the traditional poached chicken and made a creamy spread using similar ingredients to the famous Cobb dressing and the Roquefort that normally tops a Cobb salad.

The spread was much better suited for a sandwich than a thin vinaigrette. YUM! Perfect use of leftovers for turkey sandwich lovers but not the same old, same old.

Check out my other Thanksgiving leftovers recipes here and look for three new leftover-using recipes later this week!

November 18, 2012

Ancestral Cranberry Sauce

2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup 100% cranberry juice
2 tablespoons slivovitz
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

Place the cranberries, juice, sugar, 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 slivovitz. Serve hot or cold.

My thoughts:
On the original Iron Chef, the judges seemed fond of either saying something reminded them of their childhood or of their ancestors. This cranberry sauce with the dollop of slivovitz reminds us of our Eastern European roots but with a very American twist: cranberries!

November 17, 2012

Pesto-Artichoke Roll Ups

1 (8-oz.) can Pillsbury® Refrigerated Crescent Dinner Rolls
3 tablespoons prepared basil pesto
8 marinated artichoke quarters (from 8-oz jar)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 375°F. Separate dough into 8 triangles. Place 1 teaspoon pesto on the wide side of each triangle. Top pesto with 1 marinated artichoke quarter.

Roll up, starting at the wide side of triangle and rolling to opposite point. Place, point side up, on ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

Bake at 375°F for 10 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

My thoughts:
Pillsbury contacted a few bloggers about creating new quick and easy recipes for holiday entertaining using their crescent rolls. I don't think I've had a crescent roll in years but I'm always up for a challenge! I thought I'd give them a jolt  by using boldly flavored ingredients. I love marinated artichoke hearts and had a really well spiced jar in the pantry (actually a bookcase in our basement, the marvels and limitations of old houses) that I paired with a garlicy pesto. You could make your own pesto or use a good quality store-bought version. I know our local Italian market always has a ton and buying it prepared makes this recipe a snap. To jazz the outside up a bit, I sprinkled some red pepper flakes on top. They also added a slight heat which I think worked really well. I think these would be the perfect last minute dish to bring to holiday dinner.

November 16, 2012

Sernik Na Zimno (Polish Cheesecake with Cranberry Topping)


8 oz digestive biscuits

for the cheesecake layer
3 egg yolks (pasteurized if you'd like)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 cups twarog*
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
1/3 cup cold water

for the gelatin layer
3 tablespoons powdered gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
3 cups 100% (unsweetened) cranberry juice
1/3 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon

optional: fresh cranberries

Line the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan with the cookies. Set aside.

for the cheesecake:
Whisk 1 tablespoon gelatin in 1/3 cup of water and let it sit until softened, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together the cheese, vanilla and sugar until well blended. Beat in the egg yolks, then the bloomed gelatin until well mixed. The mixture should look light and creamy Scrape into the lined pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate the cheesecake 1-2 hours or until fairly firm.

for the gelatin layer:
If you'd like, arrange fruit on the top of the cheesecake. Set aside. Soak the gelatin in the cold water in a large bowl until softened. Meanwhile, bring the cranberry juice to a boil. Pour the boiling juice over the gelatin. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Allow to cool for about 25 minutes then pour some over the fruit. Refrigerate until mostly set, about 30 minutes, then pour the remaining cranberry gelatin over the cheesecake, poking down any floating berries, and refrigerate until fully set, about 2 hours.

Carefully open the spring form pan and slice to serve. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

*Look for this soft, curd-y cheese in Eastern European markets. You could try substituting farmers cheese.

My thoughts:
This recipe was a bit of an adventure. I came across a picture of this cheesecake on a Polish cooking website and immediately wanted to make it. The trouble was I don't speak or read Polish and I couldn't find a recipe in English that seemed evenly vaguely authentic. The few I did find were either for the non-gelatin topped version (sernik) or ones that called for regular old American cream cheese which even I could glean was entirely the wrong kind of texture.

Luckily, using a Polish to English dictionary, watching You Tube videos of Polish cooking shows so I knew what each step looked like and venturing down to the Polish market, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of how to make it.

I was able to procure the correct type of cheese (twarog, which is a lot like the farmers cheese I've seen at farmers markets) some plain cookies (oddly these "digestive biscuits" were difficult to find in the regular grocery store. I ended up having to use rectangular cookies but if you can find round ones like the one this woman uses in this video I found, they would work wonderfully) to line the bottom of the pan. You can skip the cookies all together, some recipes called for it and some didn't but I liked the idea and it was easy since you don't make a true crust.

On to the rest of the recipe. I made a simple no bake cheesecake filling with gelatin added for stability and popped it in the fridge to set up. I wanted to make cranberry flavored gelatin (aka jelly aka Jell-O) since I was serving this for Thanksgiving and was honestly just going to buy a box and be done with it (I did not see a single Polish recipe that did not use a pre-fab mix packet) but apparently grocery stores do not sell cranberry flavored Jell-O in October so I picked up a bottle of 100% (unsweetened) cranberry juice and made my own. If you can find cranberry Jell-O or want to make a different flavor, you could just use the box. I won't tell. Just take care to use a little less water so the Jell-O is firmer than normal. I had a vision though so I had to make my own and honestly, it isn't any more difficult than making the mix, just a little more expensive because you have to buy the juice and plain gelatin and not just a 80¢ box. So I made the cranberry gelatin then popped that in the fridge to fully set before serving. If you are making your own, I proportioned the recipe so you only need one 4-packet box of unflavored (aka Knox) gelatin: 1 for the cheesecake, 3 for the gelatin layer. Depending on how tall your pan is, you may end up with excess cranberry gelatin. Either pour it into a bowl or mold and allow to set in the refrigerator for an extra treat or discard. All of this sounds terribly complicated but honestly, it is an incredibly simple recipe to make and requires no cooking.

It was worth all of the research to have a slice of creamy cheese cake topped with tart cranberries!

November 15, 2012

Herb and Garlic Rubbed, Apple Stuffed Turkey

1 10-14 lb turkey
2 small to medium apples, quartered
1 small onion, quartered
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 400. Loosely stuff the turkey with the onions and apples. In a small bowl, whisk together the marjoram, olive oil, garlic and caraway seeds. Rub the mixture over the turkey.

Roast the turkey for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 325 until done, about 2 1/2 hrs. Allow to sit 5 minutes before carving.

My thoughts:
I came up with this recipe to coordinate with my Polish-American stuffing. I used a lot of the flavors found in Polish cooking especially the garlic in marjoram that is in my favorite sausage. I think the apple keeps them turkey moist and lightly flavors the meat from within. I don't know if it is the spices I used or what but this was honestly the most beautiful turkey I've ever made. It was perfectly golden brown, the skin was crisp and  it just looked like a picture from a magazine when I took it out of the oven. Amazing. The meat was juicy and flavorful as well. Perhaps my best turkey yet!

November 14, 2012

Rye-Kielbasa "Un-Stuffing"

1 1/4 lb sliced light Polish rye bread, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 large onions, diced
1 bunch celery, diced
1/2 cups turkey, chicken or beef stock
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 lb smoked kielbasa (I used wiejska which has garlic and marjoram), diced
1 teaspoon white pepper


In a large pan, saute celery and onions in butter and olive oil over very low heat until the onions are translucent. Do not brown. Meanwhile, lightly brown the kielbasa. Drain on paper towel lined plates if unnecessary.

Add the celery onion mixture, kielbasa and the to bread cubes in bowl and add the spices.

Combine with egg and stock. 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.

My thoughts:

I think stuffing is my favorite dish at Thanksgiving. Growing up, we never stuffed the turkey or made a separate dish of dressing, we made balls of stuffing we sat round the turkey in the roasting pan and on the rack. That way you get some of the flavor from the turkey but the turkey cooks more evenly than it does when stuffed. My mom still makes a pretty traditional version but over the years I've branched out. I've made thyme and portobello, oyster, rosemary sage, pecan, crimini mushroom, even Hawaiian bread & Spam. All delicous. This year I went Polish and and used a light rye instead of the usual sandwich bread and kielbasa to add flavor and Polish flare. Baltimore has a sizable Polish-American community (including members of my family) so it was easy to find Polish ingredients for the stuffing but any good supermarket or shop with a European foods section should have it. I was most excited find this sausage at  the Broadway Market because I had already planned to season my turkey with garlic and marjoram. I love coordinating flavors and this was one of the best kielbasa I've ever had.

November 12, 2012

Salatka Z Burakow (Polish Beet Salad)

1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
5 medium beets, boiled (or roasted) and peeled
juice 1/2 lemon
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Saute onion in the butter until soft and translucent. Shred the beets and add to the onion. Saute briefly to coat the beets in the onions. Remove to a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Toss to coat. Serve warm or refrigerate 2 hours to overnight and serve cold.

My thoughts:
Continuing on our theme of Eastern European-inspired side dishes, I present the beet salad. I swear, every Polish cookbook, novel, blog and magazine I read during the planning for this year's Thanksgiving had at least 2 recipes for beet salad or at least, a character eating beet salad. I've never been to Poland but if I ever get there, I plan to eat beet salad as soon as I deplane. I kept it simple for this salad, just beets, lemons and onion but it is very, very good. Very beet-y but not earthy beet-y, more sweet, fresh vegetable beet-y.

I saw recipes for beet salad that had you shred raw beets then cook them but honestly, that makes no sense to me. Beets are super easy to peel once cooked; the skin just slides off when you run them with a paper towel (no red hands!). The final texture of the dish is the same if you cook the beets before or after so why not save yourself some hassle.

Another bonus to this recipe? If you want to serve it cold (I did) you can make it the day before and just whip it out when dinner is served. One less thing to worry about.

November 09, 2012

Kasha Mushroom Pilaf

2 cups turkey, vegetable, chicken or beef stock
1 cup kasha (buckwheat groats)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups roughly chopped crimini mushrooms
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Bring the stock and spices to a boil. Meanwhile, saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms until soft in a medium saucepan. Mix the kasha and the egg together in a small bowl. Add the kasha mixture to the onion mixture and saute until the kasha separates, about 5 minutes. Add the stock mixture, cover and cook until the liquid is fully absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir.

My thoughts:
We've mostly had kasha in the form of Jewish classics kasha varnishkes and knishes but after reading Polish cookbook after cookbook and finding many mentions of kasha unrelated to either of those I thought it was time to branch out. As it turns out, kasha makes a wonderful side dish. It is quick to make, naturally gluten-free and a inspired alternative to rice, wild rice or potatoes. It is flavorful and hearty, perfect for an Eastern European-inspired Thanksgiving. Kasha by itself is kind of nutty flavored so adding the mushrooms really deepens the flavor. The egg is a bit of an odd ingredient but I swear, it is the trick to fluffy kasha.

November 07, 2012

Sweet and Sour Braised Cabbage with Bacon

1 large onion, finely chopped
4 slices thick center cut bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 small to medium head cabbage, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


In a Dutch oven, cook the bacon until just browned. Drain off excess fat, add the onion and saute until the onion is translucent. Stir in the cabbage and caraway seeds,

Cover and cook 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover tightly and cook 45-60 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally until the cabbage is well wilted. Stir before serving.

My thoughts:
This year for Thanksgiving we decided to get in touch with our roots. I had been tossing around many ideas for themes (I think this is my 8th year creating new Thanksgiving recipes for Coconut & Lime) and didn't really get excited about any of them until I thought of making Eastern European inspired dishes. It could be that cabbage is honestly one of my favorite foods and I love an excuse to cook with it! Sweet and sour cabbage dishes seem to be pretty popular in most Eastern European counties and I can see why. This one isn't very sweet (I've seen ones with tons of sugar and even fruit) but there is a hint of sweetness that contrasts with the tang of the vinegar.

I thought it was the perfect dish for Thanksgiving because it was easy to prep (I find slicing the cabbage to be easier, quicker and less knuckle scraping than grating although you could grate it) and cooked forever with little interaction needed. It did get done slightly before I was ready to serve and it was just fine on the stove with the flame on the absolute lowest setting. You could also keep it warm in a 4 quart slow cooker on warm or low if you'd like to make it earlier in the day. The results are amazing! The texture of the cabbage gets so soft, almost velvety after the long braise and is transformed into something even cabbage haters would enjoy.

November 05, 2012

Potato & Acorn Squash Gratin

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/4 pound acorn squash, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
3/4 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar (divided use)
2 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup sour cream (light is okay)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Grease or spray with cooking spray a 2 quart baking dish. Whisk together the milk and sour cream. Bring milk mixture, spices and garlic to a simmer in a large, high-walled skillet (I used a 14-inch cast iron skillet). Add potatoes, onion  and squash continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes and squash are fork tender, about 20 minutes. Remove half of the squash, potato and onion and arrange in the baking dish (I used my spider to remove the vegetables but a slotted spoon would do). Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with remaining potatoes, onion and squash. Add about 1 cup of the milk mixture to the baking dish (you should be able to see it but the vegetables should not be fully submerged). Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake 30-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. All to sit 5-10 minutes prior to serving.

Note: You could (carefully!) use a mandoline to slice the potatoes and squash if you want. I just used a really sharp knife and aimed for slices between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. I floated the slices in a bowl full of water until I was ready to add them to the milk mixture.
My thoughts:
This is a lightened up, squash-added twist on the classic French casserole potatoes Dauphinoise. November is the time for potato casseroles if there ever was one and I love cheesy potatoes but never, ever make them because they are time consuming and heavy and after all that, I still have to make a vegetable. Not my bag. So this year I was thinking of how I can make my cheesy dreams come true with minimal effort + maximum results. Adding winter squash was a no brainer because it can roughly be treated the same as potatoes (both dense, kind of starchy, similar cooking times) and it would eliminate my need to for separate vegetable*. I turned to the French for the technique and spirit but I used decidedly non-French extra, extra sharp cheddar as the cheese because I love it so. I think a good Gruyère would work really well too. You need an assertive cheese or the whole thing comes out sort of bland and sad.  Normally these sort of dishes are made with heavy cream which I never have on hand except when making ice cream so I subbed in my usual milk and sour cream and loved the results. Not as over-the-top rich but still creamy and with a sublte tang. The onions were my idea too, I love onions with potatoes and the boiling makes them mild and tender, perfect for this sort of comfort food. The simmering in milk step seems fussy but it ensures perfectly cooked, tender potato and squash. Plus when you add some of the liquid back in the baking dish, it is already infused with flavor.

*I just made this on a random Thursday night but I think they would be so awesome served on Thanksgiving. You can even bake them ahead of time and just reheat them right before dinner.