Saturday, October 28, 2006


a buddy of mine gave me this recipe several years ago when we were on a recipe listserv, and i've made it about once a year since then. i don't know why i don't make it more often; it really is remarkable.

i don't think j reads this blog, but i'll post his recipe here as it was given to me, with his comments. thanks, j.

My first soup post is of the best soup I have ever, ever had. It came from the New Vegetarian Epicure and everyone who has had it loves it. I made it two weeks in a row and almost ate a whole pot of it myself in about 6 hours because it was so delicious. Please do yourself a favor and make it as soon as possible!!!! A few things: definitely use butter for the sautéing rather than olive oil - it needs the extra richness. Part of what makes this soup so much fun to make, as well as eat, is using wine. I feel very special and French when I cook with wine. I used a pinot grigio, which worked very well, but I'm sure you can use whatever is at hand. Bon appetit!

Butternut Squash and Pear Soup
1 lb. butternut squash
1 large yam
2 cups veg. broth
1.5 cups water
1 stick cinnamon
tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
2 med onions, sliced
3 lg. pears
1/3 cup dry white wine
cup half and half (I used skim milk) (wellunderstood used whole milk)
white pepper to taste (don't use black pepper!)
optional: cilantro or chopped chives

Peel, seed, and dice the squash. Peel and dice the yam. Put them in the pot with vegetable broth, water, cinnamon stick and salt and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick. Melt the butter and gently cook the onions in it, stirring occasionally until it begins to caramelize. Peel, core, and thinly slice the pears and add them to the onions. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add wine, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Puree. Add cream and pepper and salt if needed. Heat to a simmer but don’t boil.

cooking ahead

something i absolutely cherish is my freezer - and not just because we were without it for a bit. there's little more satisfying on a particularly stressful evening than defrosting a meal you prepared yourself and sitting down to a home-cooked meal with little-to-no effort.

my friends (especially you, duffpower) may remember when the freezer obsession began last year. okay. it got out of control. this year will be different, i promise. soups are always wonderful to freeze, and frozen homemade burritos were a big hit for lunches last year. prepared pasta sauces (butternut squash, pestos, roasted tomato) are also oft-frozen items. the wonderful magazine Everyday Food (the most beautiful food photography i've seen) always has a "Freeze It" recipe, and last month's issue had several. the recipe i chose was wonderful, though i think i'd substitute panko for the saltine cracker crumbs next time.

Everyday Food's Lemon-Horseradish Fish Cakes
3 T. olive oil
2 lbs. tilapia fillets
salt and pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup light (or better, reduced-fat) mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 T. bottled white horseradish (i just used the wasabi i had)
1 1/2 cups coarse saltine cracker crumbs (crushed in a plastic bag with a rolling pin)
tartar sauce, for serving (optional - i made my own low-fat version)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush a baking sheet lined with foil with 1/2 t. oil. Place fillets on sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely; pat dry with paper towels. With a fork, flake fish into small pieces.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, mayo, parsley, lemon juice, and horseradish. Fold in fish and 1/2 cup cracker crumbs; season with salt and pepper. Place remaining 1 cup crumbs on a plate. Form 16 cakes using about 1/4 cup fish mixture for each. Gently dredge each cake in crumbs, pressing to help adhere. (To freeze - i froze half - place uncooked cakes on a baking sheet and freeze until firm. Wrap each in plastic and put in freezer bag for up to 3 months. Defrost in fridge before cooking.)

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 T. oil. Place 8 cakes in skillet; cook until golden brown, 4-6 minutes per side.

i served these with sauteed greens and our favorite baked sweet potato "fries". to make these, just preheat oven to 425 degrees, cut 2-3 sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch steak fries. brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. roast 45-60 minutes, turning occasionally until crispy all over.

let there be light!

when our power returned, the first thing i wanted to do was eat a meal that i cooked myself, not including peanut butter and jelly. we invited some friends over for dinner and our hero's hometown team's football game. both of the friends were alumni of said hometown school, so it was quite lively.

i love cooking with mushrooms, and had wanted to try this tempting recipe from Sally Schneider's A New Way to Cook for quite a while. the recipe made a lot of food, and the leftovers were even better the next day.

Baked Penne with Wild Mushroom Ragu and Ricotta Salata
From A New Way to Cook

1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup dried wild mushrooms, preferably porcini or morel
2 dry-packed sun-dried tomato halves
1 lb. fresh wild mushrooms (any kinds you like)
1 1/2 t. olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/4 t. dried thyme
1 28-oz can italian-style peeled tomatoes, chopped with juice
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 t. olive oil or unsalted butter
1 lb. tubular pasta (like penne)
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Fresh ground black pepper
5 oz. ricotta salata cheese, thinly sliced or shaved

To make the ragu, pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms and tomatoes in a bowl, cover, and soak until softened, at least 15 minutes.

Wipe the fresh mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel. Trim off any tough stems and discard. Cut larger shrooms into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Leave smaller mushrooms whole.

In a medium saucepan, combine oil, onions, and garlic. Cover and cook over medium heat until onions begin to wilt, about 5 minutes. Uncover and saute until they are just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.

Remove dried mushrooms and tomatoes from soaking liquid (reserve liquid) and rinse under cool water. Coarsely chop.

Spoon about 3/4 cup of the soaking liquid into the saucepan with the onions, leaving behind any grit. Add the wine and thyme and boil 1 minute. Add the fresh shrooms and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and juice, chopped dried shrooms and tomato, sugar, and salt. Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until shrooms are tender and ragu is thick, about 15 minutes. Pepper generously.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 casserole with the oil and set aside. Cook pasta until slightly underdone (it will cook in the oven). Drain the pasta and plunge it into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again. Add ragu to the pasta and toss until thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and pepper to taste and toss again. Pour half the mixture into the casserole. Arrange the ricotta salata shavings over the top, cover with the remaining pasta, and sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake the pasta until heated through and the top is lightly brown and crisp, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

the recipe says this can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated or frozen up to 2 months. it really has a wonderful, earthy flavor and could easily feed a hungry crowd.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

comfort food

our power didn’t conk out until last sunday morning, so we had just enough time last weekend to believe we were through the woods, buy a fridge full of groceries, and have powerless friends over for dinner saturday night. i thought comfort food would fit the bill considering the snowy, dark, cold circumstances, so i tried cooking a roast. this was my second-ever experiment with pork. you may remember the first time. the food was a huge hit, and even i had to admit it was delicious. i served the roast with a side of sautéed swiss chard with garlic.

a friend with no power had come over to work on a presentation for school (and plug in his laptop), and he walked into the kitchen as i was preparing dinner. i was listening to the classic melancholy sinatra album “in the wee small hours of the morning”, tears STREAMING down my cheeks from the shallots. A bit of an awkward moment until he made the connection between the shallots and my teary eyes . . .

CL’s Pork Roast with White Beans and Cranberries

1 lb. dried navy beans (about 2 cups)
1 5-lb. pork shoulder blade roast, trimmed of fat
1 ½ t. kosher salt, divided
¼ t. ground black pepper
2 t. minced fresh sage, divided (I used dried)
1 ½ cups sliced shallots (about 8 medium)
5 cups water
3 fresh sage sprigs (dried)
½ cups dried cranberries

Sort and wash beans, place in a large dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans, cover and let stand 8 hours. Drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle pork roast with salt and pepper. Rub surface of roast with dried sage. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Lightly coat bottom of pan with cooking spray or oil. Add roast to pan, cooking for 15 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove roast from pan. Add shallots to pan, saute 3 minutes or until tender. Return rast to pan. Add salt, beans, water, and sage to pan, bring to a simmer. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours. Add dried cranberries to pan; bake an additional 30 minutes or until roast is tender. Remove roast from pan, shred pork with 2 forks.

Serve roast with bean mixture.

the leftover shredded pork, mixed in with the leftover beans and a little water made a great next-day stew!

cooking light's roasted chicken with dried plums and shallots

2 t. olive oil
4 bone-in chicken breast halves (2 lbs.)
¾ t. salt, divided
½ t. black pepper, divided
8 garlic cloves, peeled
4 large shallots, peeled and halved (8 oz.)
2 thyme sprigs (I used dried
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 8 wedges
16 pitted dried plums (prunes)
¾ cup fat-free less-sodium chicken broth, divided (I used – gasp! – bouillon)
¼ cup dry white wine
1 T. all-purpose flour
2 t. chopped fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle oil in a small roasting pan or the bottom of a broiler pan. Place pan in oven 5 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle chicken with ¼ t. salt and ¼ t. pepper. Place chicken, skin side down, in pan. Arrange garlic, shallots, thyme sprigs, and fennel around chicken. Season veggies with salt and pepper. Bake 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Turn chicken over and stir vegetables. Add plums. Bake 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken and vegetables from pan. Discard skin. Loosely cover chicken and veggies to keep warm.

Place pan over medium-high heat. Add ½ cup broth and wine, stirring to loosen browned bits. Combine flour and ¼ cup broth, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture to pan, stir until well-blended. Bring to a boil, cook for 1 minute or until slightly thick. Stir in chopped thyme, remaining ¼ t. salt, and remaining pepper. Serve sauce with chicken and veggies.

i served this with whole-wheat couscous and cl’s brussels sprouts with garlic and honey. (which i tried to sell to our hero as mini-cabbages, but he saw right through me. he ended up surprising himself and liking them!)

CL’s Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Honey

1 T. butter
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, quartered and trimmed
¼ t. salt
¼ t. pepper
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 T. honey

Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts, salt, and pepper. Sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic, sauté 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Add 3 T. of water, cover and cook 3 minutes or until Brussels sprouts are tender. Drizzle with honey, toss well to coat.

a big bite of winter

here in mytown, there was a freak snowstorm that paralyzed the city and knocked out power, initially, to almost 400,000 “customers”. our hero and i included. soooo needless to say, without refrigeration, without a place to store leftovers, without light or heat, it was a dark, cold, icky week. six days into our outage, power was restored. for some of our neighbors it took nine or ten! i’m happy to be back in the light, and ecstatic to be able to really cook again. i’m a little behind in posting recipes, but because not much was made this past week, i should be able to catch up.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

a big bite of fall

aaaand continuing with our theme, a delightful, very moist quickbread with great fall flavors . . .

Cranberry-Pumpkin Bread with Flaxseed
From the New American Plate Cookbook

Canola oil or spray for pan
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup apple juice (i used cider)
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a loaf pan with canola oil or spray and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, flaxseed, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in the pumpkin, oil, applesauce, juice, and spices. Stir in the cranberries. Add the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Do not overmix. Pour batter into the pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack 10 minutes, then remove bread from pan and continue cooling on rack.

cl's fontina, olive, and tomato pizza

okay, so usually i'm pretty loyal to my whole-wheat pizza dough recipe. and usually i don't follow recipes to top my pizzas. however, i made an exception for this tempting treat right out of last month's Cooking Light. the dough was nice, even if there was a bit too much of it for just one pizza. the toppings were delish as well. to anyone who's scared of making your own dough or anything that you must "let rise," get over it. this is easy to do and much healthier than carry-out. i ask, who doesn't love pizza??

Cooking Light's Fontina, Olive, and Tomato Pizza with Basil Whole-Wheat Crust

1 T. honey
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (i used whole-wheat pastry flour)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 T. stone-ground yellow cornmeal

2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded fontina
3 T. chopped pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 T. chopped pine nuts, coarsely chopped

To make dough, combine honey and yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes to proof. Add 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (or whole-wheat pastry flour), whole wheat flour, salt, and pepper to yeast mixture, stir until a soft dough forms.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Turn dough onto a floured surface, and knead until soft and elastic (about 6 minutes); add enough of the remaining flour, a little at a time, to keep dough from sticking to hands (it will feel slightly sticky). Knead in fresh basil until incorporated. Place dough in large oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size (i just sit it on the preheating stove and it usually does the trick).
Roll or stretch dough into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface. Place on rimless baking sheet or preheated pizza stone sprinkled with cornmeal.

Position one oven rack in the middle of the oven, another at the bottom. Slide pizza crust onto bottom rack. Bake 8 minutes.

Arrange tomato slices between two paper towels; let stand 5 minutes.

Sprinkle fontina over crust, leaving a small border. Arrange tomato slices and olives over fontina; sprinkle with mozzarella and top with pine nuts. Bake on middle rack an additional 8 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese melts.

new favorite muffins

i don't like my muffins, breads, or desserts too sweet. in fact, as i become more confident in this whole baking process, i'll probably start cutting sugar in the recipes i've already posted here. i made these muffins last weekend, and i must say they are my favorites of the "quick bread-muffin fall", as they are not too sweet and stuffed with goodies. with just about the same number of calories as a granola bar, they make a great morning snack.

oh, and i invested in some paper liners for my muffin tins. they really cutdown on the headache of getting all the little guys out unscathed.

Banana-Orange Bran Muffins with Pecans
From the New American Plate Cookbook

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium)
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 large egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups bran flake cereal
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. salt
1/2 cup diced dried cherries or dried apricots (you could really use anything you like here)
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the bananas, o.j. concentrate, egg, and canola oil. Stir in the bran flakes, and let stand for about 15 minutes to soften the cereal. Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the cereal mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the dried fruit and nuts. Divide batter among cups.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan and continue to cool on the rack.

best snack ever

after a hectic schedule and a 48-hour bug, i didn't have much time to post lately. fear not! i'll provide a few recipes to hang onto . . .

a favorite recipe of mine, sent to me by mc (thanks!) shared with friends (ahem, duffpower), and now on to you all . . . i've made this as a side dish, as an appetizer, and as movie-watching "junk" food! even if you think you don't like cauliflower, give it a spin. the high heat carmelizes the sugars in the florets and makes them nutty and tasty.

Roasted Cauliflower

1 large head cauliflower
1-2 T. olive oil (depending on the size of the head)
Coarse salt
Red pepper flakes (i'll say optional, but you're crazy to omit these)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Brush or toss cauliflower on sheet with olive oil to lightly coat. Season generously with salt and red pepper flakes. Roast for one hour, stirring florets every 15 minutes. Serve immediately. Leftovers are good tossed with a peanut sauce over couscous for lunch or pureed into a "mash" side dish.