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.

November 02, 2012

Brussels Sprouts Gorgonzola Salad with Cranberries

5 (loose) cups of shredded Brussels sprouts
4 oz finely crumbled Gorgonzola
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries

for the dressing:
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss together the Brussels sprouts, Gorgonzola, onion and cranberries. Drizzle with dressing. Toss to evenly distribute. Serve immediately or refrigerate 1 hour.

My thoughts:
I've always wanted to make something with shredded Brussels sprouts but I don't have the knife skills for it (or the patience)so imagine my excitement when I went to a local grocery and right next to the whole sprouts were some sprouts that had already been shredded by a gifted store clerk. Score! I was going to saute them but then I wondered how they'd be raw. I have been known to sneak a bite of chopped Brussels sprouts before cooking but I'd never had them in a salad or anything like that. I figured it was worth a shot and I'm glad I tried it. It was delicious! One of those dishes that looks okay on paper (or on a screen) but is truly a delight to eat. All of the ingredients were both complementary and distinct at the same time. Almost like a wintery cole slaw. The perfect, crisp alternative to cooked Brussels sprouts.

November 01, 2012

Apples & Sauerkraut

32 oz finely shredded sauerkraut
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 apples, peeled and sliced (I used Honeycrisp)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon Brummel & Brown
1 bay leaf
freshly ground black pepper

Melt the Brummel & Brown in a small skillet. Saute the apples and onion until the onions are translucent.

Whisk together the vinegar, sugar and mustard seed in the bottom of a 4 quart slow cooker until the sugar dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir to evenly distribute. Cook on low 8 hours or 4 hours on high. Serve hot.

My thoughts:
It isn't Thanksgiving in Baltimore unless there is sauerkraut! Thanks to an influx of German immigrants well over 100 years ago and who added very German sauerkraut to the very American holiday menu, everyone in Baltimore serves sauerkraut for Thanksgiving. Some even make it themselves! I've heard so many stories of people who grew up in Baltimore and didn't realize it was a regional quirk until going out of state for Thanksgiving for the first time. How disappointed they must have been!

I admit, it seems a bit odd but sauerkraut pairs wonderfully with turkey and cuts the sweetness of some other side dishes. Personally, I like over my mashed potatoes and scooped on my fork when I am taking a bite of homemade jellied cranberry sauce. I've made a few different versions of Thanksgiving sauerkraut over the years but never a sweet-sour one. I came across a mention of a German dish that had apples, sauerkraut and wine in it and thought I'd pay homage to the inspiration of this tradition by adding apples to my dish. The apples cut the tartness of the sauerkraut which is already tempered by the long cooking time. You could make this on the stove top (instead of popping it in the slow cooker, cook it over a low flame in a tightly-lidded Dutch oven for about 2 1/2 hours) but that takes up a lot of room on the stove that I need for making non-jellied cranberry sauce, gravy and vegetables.

Slow Cooker Smoked Paprika Mashed Potatoes

3/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
3 lb potatoes, peeled and quartered (or eighthed if they are very large)
3/4 cup chicken or turkey stock
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons Brummel & Brown Spread
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Place the onion, garlic, potatoes, stock, and spices in a 4 quart slow cooker. Stir. Cook and cook on high until potatoes are tender, about 3-4 hours. Add the Brummel & Brown, milk and yogurt, mash. Serve right away or adjust the setting to low to keep warm until you are ready to serve.

Serves: about 8

Note: Resist the urge to add more stock. The potatoes will look "dry" but they will be fine. Adding more stock will result in soup, not mashed potatoes.

My thoughts:
Thanksgiving side dishes are always a popular topic of conversation once Halloween is over. it seems like people are of two types when it comes to Thanksgiving. Those who absolutely must make the exact same things the exact same way every year and those who view Thanksgiving as the best day to dazzle everyone with something new. I'm a mix of both, we go to my parents' house for Thanksgiving and I normally make one new dish to share but they make pretty much the same things they have since my whole life. This dish is sort of a combination of both philosophies. My family always makes mashed potatoes (imagine my surprise when I went to Thanksgiving at my in-laws house and learned they didn't make mashed potatoes!) but a pretty plain version. This version has a leg up: not only are they made in the slow cooker, freeing up a burner for other dishes, they are positively infused with flavor from cooking with the onion and garlic for hours. The onion and garlic end up so soft, they mash right into the potatoes, leaving them smooth and flavorful. They are also a bit lighter than some mashed potatoes, the yogurt gives a bit of tang but also makes them very creamy without having to add heavy cream or even whole milk. Perfect for a meal when you might be indulging in more extravagant treats.

Added bonus: this is one of those recipes that doesn't seem like it would work (mashed potatoes in the slow cooker?) but totally does adds a little "wow" factor to a normally humble side dish.