November 18, 2019

Watercress-Fennel Soup with Chicken-Parmesan Meatballs




Ingredients:

meatballs:

1 lb ground chicken
1/3 cup (loose) chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
salt
freshly ground black pepper


soup:


4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 parsnips, sliced
1 small bulb fennel (bulb and stalks sliced)
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 onion, sliced into quarter moons
64 oz chicken stock
4 oz fresh baby watercress
1/3 cup tubetti (or other small pasta)
salt
freshly ground black pepper



Directions:


for the meatballs:

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together all the meatball ingredients. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place on the lined baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes, flip and bake for 4 minutes more. Remove from the pan and use immediately or cool and refrigerate up to one day.

for the soup:
Saute the garlic, parsnips, fennel, celery, and onion, until the onion is translucent and the parsnip is softened. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add the meatballs.

If your meatballs were made ahead of time and are cold, simmer until warmed through before adding the pasta. If they are fresh from the oven, add the pasta and cook until nearly al dente. Stir in the watercress, salt, and pepper. Allow the watercress to wilt. Serve immediately.


Note: 

If you are planning on saving leftovers, make the pasta separately and add it to each bowl when serving. Store leftovers separately and add it when you go to reheat the soup.

My thoughts:
After making this soup, I realized it had more than a passing relationship to Italian Wedding Soup. Don't know how that happened! I was trying to use up the bag of watercress I had in my fridge and the ground chicken I had bought for another dish before our oven "incident". The good news is that, if you like Italian Wedding Soup, you will most likely like this soup!

It really is super flavorful yet super simple. For some reason when it comes to soup, I always feel like it is a lot of work. It really isn't! I didn't grow up making homemade soup and my husband is the type of person who when he makes matzah ball soup starts with a whole, raw chicken and takes all day to make one bowl of soup so I think that really contributed to it. However, if you are willing to use a box of stock or have frozen your own, you can have fresh soup in like 40-ish minutes. I made the meatballs in the morning and refrigerated them so at dinner time, everything came together really quickly.

Parsnips are really underutilized in soup, they are very earthy yet have a subtle sweetness. I love fennel and for this soup, I didn't just use the bulb at the end, I sliced up those stalks and tossed in the fronds. The stalks have a sort of celery-like texture and it's a shame most recipes call for tossing them. They are on the tough side but in a bowl of soup, that isn't an issue at all. I'm trying really hard not to waste ingredients so using the stalks is perfect. I love watercress very much. It's got a peppery bite to it and it is surprisingly versatile. It really holds it's shape when added to hot soup which really added a lot of texture interest to the soup. I still hate fall and winter but this soup makes it a little bit better.




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November 15, 2019

Gingered Cranberry Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake






Ingredients:

topping:

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 cups fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries


cake:

1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (canned) pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch sea salt


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Heavily butter an 8-inch cake pan. Set aside.

For the topping:


In a small saucepan, melt and stir together butter, brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon fresh ginger. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. whisking occasionally to dissolve the sugar, or until it thickens slightly. Stir in the cranberries. Pour the mixture into the bottom of the cake pan. Set aside.

For the cake:

Cream together the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and beat until fluffy. Beat in the pumpkin and vanilla until well combined. Whisk together the spices, baking powder and flour in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. The batter should be rather thick. Spoon over the cranberry layer and bake 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan 5 minutes to let the molten fruit settle then carefully invert onto a flat, heat-proof plate. Cool completely, on the plate, over a wire rack.



Serves around 8.
My thoughts:
My husband managed to melt the display panel and the bottom half of the oven controls while making dinner Sunday. Let it be a warning to you all not to let a very hot small enameled cast-iron French oven get wedged against the apparently too low control panel on the back of your stove while making your kasha-stuffed twice baked potatoes. After panicking, we called around and found someone who came out in just a couple days and replace the part (after several calls to people who said they could install it in 2-3 weeks or who nearly wanted as much to come out as they wanted to--possibly--repair it). Support small businesses! I'm just glad it was early enough that we avoided being stuck in the queue with people who figured out 2 days before Thanksgiving that their oven doesn't work.

To celebrate my return to the working oven world, I thought I'd make a quick, yet holiday-worthy cake. As the years go by the more I realize that while I like eating cake with lovely swirls of icing, I don't really enjoy making them. There are only two people in our family and making a whole regular sized cake (unless we happen to be entertaining or invited somewhere) seems a bit wasteful. Plus every time I make a frosted cake, I realize all over again just how time-consuming they are. The waiting and cooling time always seems interminable.

No such problems with an upside-down cake! No need to ice, it mixes together in about 15 minutes and bakes for less than 45. Sure you have to wait for it cool but it naturally looks very pretty with the fruit on top and once it's done, it's done. It's a little nerve-wracking when you are tipping it out of the pan but if you buttered your pan well, it should come out easily. An added bonus is that it only serves about 8 so it is perfect for smaller families while still having enough to share or have a slice leftover for breakfast the next day.

At the last minute, I decided to make this a cranberry pumpkin cake. I was just going to go with a simple ginger cake base but pumpkin desserts are so popular at Thanksgiving, it's always nice to have one that isn't pumpkin pie (yuck) and doesn't use pumpkin pie spice. You get plenty of ginger flavor thanks to using both ground and fresh ginger and the allspice adds that autumnal flavor a November cake needs.

The pineapple upside-down cake I made years ago will always be my favorite of the upside-down cake recipes I've created but this one is a very close second. It smells amazing while baking; it is full of warm spices, rich pumpkin and the perfect amount of tartness is present thanks to the cranberries. Plus you can make it a full day before serving, making it perfect for the holidays.


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November 13, 2019

Slightly Posh Tuna and Sweetcorn Jacket Potatoes


Ingredients:

4 large baking potatoes (like Russet)
3 5-oz cans Albacore tuna in water, drained
8 oz can corn kernels*, drained
1 bunch green onion, chopped (green parts only)
1/3 cup (loose) chopped Italian parsley
1/2 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. Scrub off the potatoes and score an X in the top of each. Roast for at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, mix together the tuna, corn, green onion, parsley, lemon pepper, and mayo until well combined.

Slice the potatoes in half length-wise and fluff the potato with a fork. Top with tuna mixture, serve.






*I don't know if I have ever brought canned corn kernels before but the Green Giant Steam Crisp corn was really good! Minimal water in the can and it was actually really crisp. Much crisper than frozen corn.

My thoughts:
Tuna and sweetcorn is not a popular combination here in the US. I had heard of it before our trip to England a few years ago but I was still surprised to see tuna and sweetcorn in such abundance. It was in grocery stores among the other prepared sandwich selections (why is Europe so ahead of us in the packaged sandwich game?), I saw it on menus at cafes, and I even saw an ad for tuna and sweetcorn pizza! When we made our way up to Bath, it had been a long day and we ended up getting some take out from a little place (The Bridge Coffee Shop if I remember correctly) right on the Pulteney Bridge over the Avon River. I had sort of wanted to try a tuna sweetcorn sandwich on the trip so I was a little disappointed that I didn't see it on the menu but they did have it as a topping for a jacket (or baked) potato. Yes, please! The combination was oddly tasty! The creamy tuna plus the lightly sweet corn really did work. It was a fun contrast to the hot potato beneath.

I'd love to know the origins of this combination. I really can't find one. Canned tuna was introduced around 1908 but really didn't become popular until the 1920s. Tuna salad was a new addition to the repertoire of lunch salads like chicken, ham or egg that had their roots in saving scraps from dinner and turning them into new dishes. When canned tuna became available they pushed turning it into casseroles and mayonnaise-based salads. You no longer need to wait for leftovers to make tuna salad and it was an affordable source of protein. Perhaps the heightened popularity of canned corn after Green Giant invented a vacuum method of canning corn in the late 1920s and love of tuna salad hit at the same time in England and Ireland resulting in a sandwich filling that could be tossed together quickly with pantry ingredients. I really don't know.

I had thought of tuna and sweetcorn off and on from our trip but never bothered to make it. Anyway, the other day I unexpectedly needed to make dinner, had tuna and potatoes I wanted to use up so my husband picked up some canned corn and here we are. Normally, the combo is literally mayonnaise, tuna and drained canned corn but the potato I had a garnish of green onion that I thought really pepped up the dish so when I made it, I added in some green onion and parsley. That and some lemon pepper (or fresh lemon zest, salt, and pepper if you're fancy) added a fresher, brighter taste to the final dish. Try it, it's oddly satisfying!


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November 06, 2019

Pot Roast & Butternut Squash Cottage Pie






Ingredients:

1 small butternut squash, cubed
coarsely chopped leftover pot roast with sauce (roughly 4 cups)
2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch green onion, chopped
1/4 cup whole milk


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Boil the potatoes until fork-tender. Drain and mash in green onion, butter, and milk.  Set aside.

Using a steamer pot or a steam basket, steam the squash until tender. Arrange in the bottom of a deep-dish pie plate. Set aside. Remove the slices of pot roast and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Stir in the pie plate. Add the remaining pot roast sauce and bits.



 Stir and flatten with the back of a spoon. Top with an even layer of potato.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until browned and bubbly.


My thoughts:
I posted a recipe for a pot roast this week that we really loved. I had actually made it quite a few months ago and saved the recipe. At the time we had a ton of leftovers so I made this easy cottage pie. Normally we eat leftovers the next day for lunch but there is always a ton leftover from pot roast when you are a family of two so I must have had enough (or already had another lunch on tap) to make a whole second dinner out of it.

I don't quite remember the circumstance but I do remember eating this cottage pie (not shephard's pie as it is made with beef, not lamb) and really enjoying it! To bulk the dish up a bit (the 4 cups of leftovers that went into this was a mix of cubed beef, veggies and a lot of sauce), I added a layer of steamed butternut squash to the bottom of the pie plate. Then I covered the whole thing in a thick layer of mashed potatoes. If you had leftover mashed potatoes (or thoguht ahead and made extra on purpose) they'd be great to use here and would make the dish even quicker--just let them come a little closer to room temperature so they are easier to spread and add a couple extra minutes cooking time. The result is pure comfort food. Perfect for a cold, windy night.

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November 04, 2019

Classic Pot Roast with Root Vegetables



Ingredients:
2 1/2-3 lb beef bottom round roast
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cubanelle pepper, chopped
4 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 cup red wine
4 cups beef stock
3 cloves garlic
6 oz tomato paste
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs rosemary
3 carrots, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
3 parsnips, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
superfine flour (like Wondra)


Directions:

Heat a small amount of oil in a large, lidded heavy-bottomed pot (like a Dutch or French oven). Add the onions, mushrooms, garlic, and peppers and cook for 2 minutes. Rub paprika, salt, and pepper into the roast. Sprinkle liberally with flour. Place in the pan and brown on all sides. Add the wine, tomato paste, bay leaves, rosemary, and stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 2 hours. Add the carrots and parsnips. Continue to simmer, covered, 1 hour or until the meat is very tender.




My thoughts:
I actually made this pot roast way earlier in the year but it started to get warm before I had a chance to post it so I saved it for when it got cold again. Unfortunately, cold weather is here! It's actually not too terribly cold during the day yet (mid-50s today) but nights have been quite chilly so I think pot roast season is upon us. We actually alread made pot roast once this year and I used this recipe as a guide, I liked it so much.

I didn't grow up eating pot roast. My father was an incredibly picky eater and it really limited what we ate as a family growing up. It just didn't make practical or I guess, financial sense to make two seperate meals all the time so we ate a lot of very basic, bland food. It was fine but not very exciting. My husband, however, grew up with it and has some real nostalgia for pot roast. He really enjoys it when we make it. It isn't difficult to make an really isn't even terribly adventurous but it is very good. It surprisingly doesn't taste too tomato-y despite the paste, instead the pastes seems to deepen the flavor of the sauce and thicken it. The carrots and parsnips add some sweetness and because you add them late, hold their shape so you can serve them as more than just sauce. I think it goes great with mashed potatoes.

I transformed the leftovers into Pot Roast & Butternut Squash Cottage Pie.

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