Monday, November 29, 2010

Linguine with Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Mushrooms

This is some speedy linguine. You do no more to the mushrooms than slice them, steep them in oil, garlic, lemon and thyme and toss them into hot cooked pasta. The only thing you cook is the pasta. It's sort of weird for me to not cook the mushrooms in a saute pan first, but since they sit and marinate in the lemon/oil mixture, it sort of "cooks" and softens them before you add them to the pasta. the dressed mushrooms also make a great salad, but in which case boost the quantities of sliced mushrooms (keeping other ingredients the same, and obviously you're omitting the pasta altogether) to 6 cups. If all you can find is regular button mushrooms, this pasta is still worth making- so no excuse for not, or so Nigella Lawson says, who is the creator of this recipe. Obviously, I get excited about tossing all sorts of varieties in there...Trumpet, oyster, and cremini, since I've never met a mushroom I didn't like. This is a perfect, casual weeknight supper if I've ever seen one and I'm glad to have it in my repertoire.

One word of caution that I would give is to resist the urge to add more garlic. If you are like me, the one clove for the whole dish seems puny but you have to remember it stays raw and so it is quite flavorful. Too much garlic and it will get too spicy. This is a robust pasta and is very lemony. I love that, but I mention it because not everybody does, and if that is you I recommend only using half of the lemons juice instead of the whole thing. I'm kind of from the more lemon the better camp, so this is right up my ally.

Linguine with Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Mushrooms
adapted from Nigella Lawson Express

8 ounces (4 cups) finely sliced cremini mushrooms (or a mix of any varieties)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Kosher salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 sprigs fresh thyme stripped to give 1 teaspoon leaves
1 pound linguini ( I used whole wheat)
1 bunch fresh, flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped to give 1/2 cup
2 to 3 tablespoons freshly grated Paremsan, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Slice the mushrooms finely, and put them into a large bowl with the oil, salt, minced garlic, lemon juice and zest, and thyme leaves.

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions and drain loosely retaining some water (see note). Quickly put the pasta into the bowl with the mushroom mixture.

Toss everything together well, and then add the parsley, cheese and pepper before tossing again. Eat with joy in your heart (Nigella's words, not mine).

*note- you want a little of the starchy cooking liquid from the pasta to go into the mushroom mixture with your pasta. The little bit of water helps to make the dish saucier because of the starch.

Well we are back from Lincoln, NE where we celebrated Thanksgiving with Jeremy's family. We all got sick while we were there. I'm happy to report that I was less sick than Jeremy but it was still no fun not being able to participate in everything and rather just sit like a lump on the couch. :( On an up note, my birthday was yesterday and we went to Cafe Diva, the best restaurant in town to celebrate with friends for dinner. There was Champagne and duck confit pizza with apple butter and gruyere, crab and tomato bisque, bouillabaisse, and gingerbread with marscapone gelato. It was a good night indeed. Oh, and I also got a manicure and pedicure. Sparkly christmas red for my toes, and a sparkly dark blue for my hands. I was feeling edgy and Paris chic, with that choice. ;)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Roasted Tomato Soup with Fresh Basil

It's just a couple days before Thanksgiving and I am writing about tomato soup. It doesn't seem right. By all intents and purposes I should be blogging about Justin Timberlake's Grandmothers Pecan Pie that I made last week, but alas, it was just so-so and I didn't snap a picture of it. So, with all that said...Tomato soup it is and a dang good one at that. This is a smack down tomato soup. If you are having a tomato soup throw down, make this one because it's everything a tomato soup should be. It's bold and rich, satisfying and creamy with subtle garlic notes. Roasting the fresh tomatoes with onions and garlic before making the soup, really develops and deepens the flavor of the whole thing. Adding the croutons is a perfect salty crunch that sends it over the edge. The bottoms soak up the soup and become soft while the top keeps it's texture. I love that.

I abide by a simple method when making croutons. Just cut your bread of choice (preferably something crusty and hearty) into bite sized cubes. Heat a skillet up over moderately high heat and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. When the pan is hot, add the cubes of bread and season liberally with salt and pepper, tossing the whole time to be sure it does not burn. When your bread has dried out and is a bit crusty, your croutons are ready, about 3-4 minutes.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Fresh Basil
adapted from"Stirring the Pot" by Tyler Florence

serves 4

2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (mix of heirlooms, cherry, vine, and plum tomatoes)
2 small yellow onions, sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (I scaled this back to about 1/4 cup)
1 cup croutons (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash, core, and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, onions, and garlic onto a baking tray. (Add the cherry tomatoes whole). Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until caramelized.

Transfer the roasted tomatoes and the onions and garlic to a large stockpot. pour in any roasting liquid from the tray, about 3 cups of the chicken broth, the bay leaves, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until liquid has reduced by a third.

Remove and discard bay leaves. Add chopped basil leaves. Puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. You can also puree in batches in a regular blender. Return soup to low heat; add the 3/4 cup cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken broth, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls. if you like, garnish each bowl with fresh chopped basil and croutons.

Were headed to Nebraska this Thanksgiving to celebrate with Jeremy's side of the family. A snow storm is supposed to move in the day we leave. Joy, right? Have a happy start to the holiday, be safe, and when you get tired of turkey, turn to this soup.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Old Fashioned Apple Crisp


This dessert is out of this world good and oh so comforting. It is definitely one of my personal favorites and I have Mrs. Ina Garten to thank for it. I have a lot of things to thank her for.

What you get in the finished product is apples, sweet and soft, seasoned to perfection with cinnamon and a topping that is crunchy and carmel-y tasting from the brown sugar added to it. It's really a knock out. Add some Breyers vanilla bean ice cream and whoever you are serving this to is bound to be one happy camper! I made this dessert for SK8 church so I didn't even get to have any, sniffle. But let me tell you it was shear torture smelling it. Okay, so I took a few pinches from the topping and snarfed, you caught me. It was the highlight of my day. I'm not dramatic much, am I? Seriously, I've made this particular dessert more than a few times so I know full well what I was missing.

As with most crisps, this is very rustic so it would be perfect on your thanksgiving table as a different option along with the usual pumpkin pie. It won't be on my Thanksgiving table this year, however, because I am a severe traditionalist (at least in this point of my life I am) and on Thanksgiving we have 3 different pies. Two Pumpkin, a Dutch Apple and Pecan. No ifs, ands or butts about it. But seeing as how we have Dutch apple, we will sort of get the same kind of taste as the crisp. But, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm inviting some people over for dinner though, just so I can make this crisp. Not that you need an excuse. Only if you want to spread the love it will surely bring.

Old Fashioned Apple Crisp
adapted from "Barefoot Contessa Parties!"

serves 10

5 pounds McIntosh or Macoun apples
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. butter a 9 x 14 x 2-inch oval baking dish.

Peel, core, and cut apples into large wedges. Combine the apples with the juices, sugar and spices. Pour into the dish.

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. mix on low speed until the mixer is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the apples.

Place the crisp on a sheet pan and bake for one hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

In the recipe I say to peel the apples. You might be able to tell in my picture that I didn't peel the apples. That would be why there is a tinge of pink to the final product. Do what I say not as I do. Listen, I was making 5 batches of this. I can't peel 30 apples and stay sane, give me a break! But I usually do, so do it if you can. Otherwise cheat like me, it looks pretty good, and I won't tell. Also, Ina adds the zest of both a lemon and orange to her apples with the spices and sugar before baking. I omit it because I think it imparts too much of a citrus-y note in an otherwise homey dessert. If you like it, knock yourself out.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Easy Lemon Broccoli

I'm sure this is a standard method in which to cook broccoli or any vegetable for that matter, but I just winged it the other night with no recipe to refer to. I know, I'm such a little dare devil sometimes. But seriously, broccoli can be so boring and I find myself not serving it a whole lot because it's not as tasty as I'd like it to be. Not anymore. Broccoli has it's groove back in my house and it was welcomed, even by the children with open arms.

I like it this way because it's fresh and delicately flavorful with out being weighed down with butter, which some people do, or cheese. Now I'm not hating on the cheese and broccoli thing. I make a roasted broccoli with Parmesan which is a real winner, but sometimes you just want something lighter...fresher. This is it. I like to have my ingredients chopped and ready to go before I boil the broccoli. That way while it's boiling I can make my "sauce" quickly and the whole dish is ready and hot at the same time. Make this just before sitting down to dinner. It takes less than 10 minutes start to finish if you have your water boiling and waiting for you.

Easy Lemon Broccoli

serves 4-6

3 medium broccoli heads
2 fat garlic cloves, minced
zest of 1 whole lemon
juice from 1/2- 1 whole lemon, depending on your taste. (I use the whole thing)
2 tablespoons olive oil or grape seed oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 a lemon cut in half moons for garnish (optional)
Kosher salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with a few hefty pinches of salt. This will flavor the broccoli from the inside out. Separate the broccoli heads into florets, chop your garlic and zest your lemon. When the water is at a boil, add the florets into the pot and boil for 3-4 minutes, just until the broccoli is bright green and fork tender but still has a little bite to it. In essence, don't over cook! meanwhile melt the butter and oil together in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Don't let the broccoli get brown. Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the lemon zest and red pepper flakes if using. Set the pan off the heat if need be while you strain the broccoli, so as not to burn anything. Add the cooked broccoli to the pan, and the lemon juice and lemon pieces if using. Add a pinch of salt and toss to combine either off the heat or on low heat.

If the broccoli gets too hot while tossing, it will turn brown which can make it taste bitter so that is why I say to combine everything off the heat. This is a perfect addition to a weeknight dinner with some blackened fish or baked chicken and a baked potato. There I go meal planning for you again. Sorry. You can make it with whatever you like. Fancy that!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Petite Vanilla Bean Scones

A couple weeks ago my friend Kel sent me a link for these scones from The Pioneer Woman Cooks website. She was drooling over them and said we must make them. I had to agree, they looked pretty darn good. Then, a little over a week ago Kel came to my house to catch up on a Beth Moore bible study video we had missed. She mentioned in the e-mail in which she said she was for sure coming that we should most definitely have something scrumptious to eat, like those vanilla scones...hint hint. Sweet friend that she is, offered to make them, although she didn't have vanilla beans but I knew she would be gone all day, and you see, I always have vanilla beans. So I made them, they were so good, almost like a butter cookie in consistency and taste with a glaze that tasted like Breyers vanilla bean ice cream. That being said, they were only delicately sweet. These really would be a good accompaniment to you morning coffee but are equally fit for dessert.

I have to confess, I messed up a bit. I didn't have whole milk on hand for the glaze so I substituted cream. It sounded good, but the consistency was off since cream is thicker and I had to add more and more to get it right. That meant sadly that there wasn't enough powdered sugar to cream in the ratio and so the glaze didn't harden up properly but they still tasted good! The moral of the story is use whole milk people, and you will get it right.

Petite Vanilla Bean Scones
adapted from Ree Drummond via The Pioneer Woman Cooks Website

makes 24 small scones. Serves 12

3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, chilled
1 whole large egg
3/4 cups heavy cream (more if needed)
2 whole vanilla beans (note you will need another for the glaze as well)

3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cups whole milk
1 whole vanilla bean
dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Split two vanilla beans down the middle lengthwise and scrape out all of the vanilla beans inside. Stir vanilla beans into the cream and let it set, set aside for 15 minutes so the flavors can intermingle.

Put the flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Cut cold butter into pats, then add to the food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles crumbles. Alternately, you can cut the butter in the flour mixture with a pastry cutter.

Mix vanilla cream with egg, then with the food processor running pour the vanilla cream mixture in to combine with the flour mixture until it comes together. (I had to add a bit more cream to get the dough to come together). Alternately, if you have used the pastry cutter method, stir the cream into your flour mixture with a fork, gently, until it comes together.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and lightly press it together until it forms a rough rectangle (mixture might be a bit crumbly) Use a rolling pin to roll into a rectangle about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick. Use your hands to help with the forming if necessary. use a knife to trim into a symmetrical rectangle, then cut the rectangle into 12 symmetrical squares. next , cut each square in half diagonal, to form two triangles.

Transfer to a parchment or baking mat-lined cookie sheet and bake for 18 minutes, removing from the oven just before they start to turn golden. Allow to cool for 15 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.


To make the icing, split one vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the caviar. Stir caviar into milk; allow to sit for a while. Mix powdered sugar with the vanilla milk, adding more powdered sugar or milk if necessary to get the consistency to the right thickness. It should be thick, but still pour easily. Stir or whisk until completely smooth.

One at a time, carefully dunk each cooled scone in the glaze, turning it over if necessary. that depends on if you want he whole scone coated, front and back or just the top. Transfer to a parchment paper or the cooling rack. Allow the glaze to set completely, about an hour. Scones will keep several days if glazed.

Don't make these scones without the vanilla beans, they just will not be the same. Vanilla beans impart such a lovely, luxurious flavor that you just can't get from the bottled stuff. I know they are expensive, but I usually buy them in bulk. Sure you have to spend more money but you get a ton of vanilla beans, like 25 of them at a fraction of the price, plus they keep forever, literally, if properly stored where no air can get to them. Just google "bulk vanilla beans".

Also, these in my opinion would make a great Christmas cookie since they don't puff up a ton in the oven. Just cut them into rounds with a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter instead of making them into rectangles, glaze the same way and call them a vanilla bean butter cookies. Great idea. And if you make these, I would like to get some too. :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Authentic Enchilada Sauce and Chicken Enchiladas plus Enchilada Shrimp Soup

 Authentic Enchilada Sauce

I have been making this enchilada sauce for years. It's the first sauce I attempted and never made another one since. You know when you just nail the perfect recipe the first go around? That's what this one is for me. It's so authentic with a little smokiness and spice in the background, and a perfect balance between the tomatoes and chilis. It tastes like a little old lady living in an adobe house in central Mexico whipped this up. And if you are going to make homemade enchilada sauce, it should, right?


My Aunt Colleen is the one who introduced me to this recipe. It's from her friend Cecila. Cecilia is a gourmet chef and the owner of a catering company. She grew up in Mexico and learned how to make this enchilada sauce as a child from the servants that worked for her parents (swanky, huh?) These enchiladas are Cecilia's most popular menu item, probably in part to the sauce, but also because she wraps a hefty amount of chicken in each fried corn tortilla, bakes it to perfection with a bit of Jack cheese and tops it with a bunch of cold toppings. When I say a bunch, I'm not joking. She sets out trays of shredded iceberg lettuce, sour cream, sliced radishes, cilantro, lime wedges, avocado slices, and olives. It's the mixture of hot and cold, crunchy and soft that makes this dish special.

Enchiladas and Homemade Sauce

The sauce itself is easy. The only step needed before putting the whole thing together is softening the chilis in boiling water then removing the seeds. Next, just throw the chili's in a blender with onion, garlic and enough water to blend and puree until smooth. Add it to a pot with tomato sauce and spices and you are set to go. I usually double the recipe because this keeps so well in the freezer and I'm always excited to use it.

Enchilada Sauce
adapted from Cecilia

3 bags Pasillo or Pasilla chili's- they are shorter, darker and wrinklier than "california chili's"
(about 4-5 come in a bag)
1 onion, cut in quarters
5 coves of garlic
2 28oz cans tomato sauce
2 Tbsp tomato or chicken bullion
1 tsp salt (I added more)
optional: just a touch of cumin and oregano

Simmer pasillo chili's in a pot of water until soft (approx. 30 min.) Put a lid on the pot if you have trouble keeping the chilies underwater. Drain the chili's in a colander in the sink. Once chili's have cooled enough to touch, rip the stems off and remove seeds (I just run them under water to make quick work of it. The unwanted parts go right into the garbage disposal) and place in a blender. Blend chili's with the onion and garlic, adding 1/2 to 1 cup of water to make a smooth paste. Put the paste in a saucepan and add tomato sauce, salt, bullion, cumin and oregano if using. You can add water if you think it's too thick. It should be the consistency of spaghetti sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes. Cool completely and refrigerate until ready to use, or store in quart size freezer Ziplock bags and freeze for future use.

This sauce is foundation. The heat chili's give off is varying. If you get a spicy batch you can add more tomato sauce to make it less spicy. Mine was fine with the quantities as written, but it did have a little spice to it which I like. Taste and adjust what you need to.

Authentic Chicken Enchiladas

Assembling the Chicken Enchiladas:

Boil a chicken for 45 minutes. Remove the meat from the bone. One chicken will make one dozen enchiladas (more if you use less chicken in each one) OR buy a rotisserie chicken and remove the meat from the bones.

Fry corn tortillas in vegetable oil over medium heat on both sides, briefly. Oil must be very hot. Fry for about 30 seconds on one side, 20 on the other or until the tortilla is starting to crisp up but is still pliable enough to wrap around the chicken. Put on paper bags or towels and stack.

Dip fried tortillas in enchilada sauce (you can probably tell I skipped this step from the picture, shame same, but I usually do it and it tastes better). Wrap around a good amount of chicken. Line them up in a 9x13 pan. Pour more sauce and grated jack cheese over the pan of enchiladas and bake in a 350 degree oven until warm, about 30 minutes.

*THIS IS KEY- Serve the enchiladas with a variety of cold toppings...shredded lettuce, sour cream, sliced radishes, cilantro, lime wedges, avocado slices, and black olives. It's the mixture of hot and cold, crunchy and soft that makes this dish special.

Enchilada Shrimp Soup

Cecilia's Easy Shrimp Soup using Enchilada Sauce:

Here is another delicious main dish to make using the enchilada sauce. This soup is hearty. The ingredients do not need to be measured. Just improvise.

Saute garlic, celery and onion
Add diced potatoes, carrots and water just to cover, simmer until potatoes are cooked through
Add some shrimp bullion and or chicken bullion and enchilada sauce (enough to make a soup consistency)
At the last minute, add loads of cut up pre-cooked shrimp

Serve with oregano, jack cheese, great bread and a salad.

When I made this, I used 2 garlic cloves, 2 stalks of celery, 1 small onion, 1 russet potato, 2 carrots, 2 1/2 cups of water, 2 1/2 teaspoons chicken bullion, 1 to 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce and salt to taste. I also used about 4-5 shrimp per person. It served 4 people. Keep in mind you may need to add more or less of these ingredients for your desired taste.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hazelnut Custard Bread Pudding

So, I know there is probably some confusion on what exactly my favorite dessert is. Heck, you probably don't care in the least, but let's just pretend for a minute, shall we? If you have been reading for a while you probably think that my favorite dessert is one of two things, either bread pudding (in most any form) or chocolate cake (not flour less). You would be right. Both are my favorite depending on the day, mood, weather and my appetite. That being said, I try to eat them as often as I can in as many forms as I can.

I made this hazelnut variety and served it to my in-laws when they came over for dinner. My father-in-law is a big lover of bread pudding like me and my husband, so really there was no other option. I had never made this particular recipe before, but I am so glad I took a chance on it because it was out of this world good! It's a basic bread pudding, not too mushy, where the integrity of the bread is not compromised but keeps it's general shape up top. Then it is covered with a blanket of warm buttery sauce that is infused with Frangelico, a hazelnut liquor, instead of the traditional bourbon. It's outstanding. Really. I ate way too much of this that night and went to bed with a stomach ache. Not hard to do, as you will see when you make this. I'm not kidding when I say that. This recipe is supposed to feed 6-8 people but four of us polished it off, no problem. If you know us, it's not that surprising.

Hazelnut Custard Bread Pudding
adapted from

Makes 8 servings, theoretically

1 Italian or French loaf or 10 slices day-old white bread or cinnamon bread torn or cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup raisins (optional)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Frangelico (hazelnut liquor)
7 tablespoons butter, cut up

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Place ton bread and raisins in prepared dish; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, the 1 1/2 cups sugar, the 4 tablespoons melted butter, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and the nutmeg. Pour over bread and raisins in prepared dish.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool slightly.

Meanwhile, for sauce, in a small saucepan, combine the 2/3 cup sugar and the flour. Whisk in water and Frangelico until smooth. Add butter. Bring to boiling over medium heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Serve warm sauce over warm bread pudding.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Apple and Pecan Salad with Vidalia-Honey Vinaigrette

I don't usually make great salads. I'm going to just admit that one off the bat. I love a good salad but I find the ones I make at home just are not that exciting. Therefore, I don't make them a whole lot. My go to side salad is lettuce, cucumbers, avocado, green onion, cherry tomato and Italian dressing. It's fine, but nothing special. I like very put together salads. Kind's who have the perfect crisp lettuce to match the dressing and a great combo of ingredients (something kinda salty, something kinda crunchy, something kinda sweet) that compliment and balance each other. Basically, the salad has to speak to me. It has to say "I have tons of flavor and I'm very interesting, try me".

That's exactly what this salad did. It spoke to me. I have always loved Vidalia onion vinaigrette's but did not know how to make one from scratch until now. It's a great dressing. Slightly sweet and tangy with a solid carmel-y, onion-y foundation that just sings. It's perfect with greens, nuts (kinda crunchy), apple (kinda sweet) and well, cranberries, which are also kinda sweet, but, you could throw in some aged cubed cheddar if you are really wanting that kinda salty element.

We ate this along side a casual soup and it just stepped up the entire dinner. This salad is homey, special and so Fall. You could also eat this alone as a main course with a dinner roll because it's that satisfying. And I don't take eating salad for dinner lightly.

Vidalia-Honey Vinaigrette
adapted from Southern Living, Oct. 2010

1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp vegetable oil(I used 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup cider vinegar, divided
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Saute onion in 1 tbsp hot oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring often, 8 minutes or until caramel colored. Add 2 tbsp. vinegar, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes.

Process onion mixture, honey, salt, pepper, mustard, 1 Tbsp vinegar, and remaining oil (I recommend adding 1/2 cup oil and tasting before adding the other 1/4 cup to see if you even need it) in a blender or magic bullet for 30 seconds or until blended. Cover and chill 3 to 24 hours.

Apple and Pecan Salad
serves 4

5-6 cups salad greens (I used a mixture of green and purple butter lettuces)
1 large honeycrisp apple, chopped
a couple handfuls of toasted pecans
1 handful of dried cranberries
a handful of cubed of aged cheddar (optional)

Toss together with the vinaigrette and serve immediately

You won't need all the dressing for the salad. Just use enough to coat the leaves nicely and reserve the rest for another time. You can use whichever salad greens you prefer, but I used the butter leaf mix plus a few handfuls of baby arugula because it's hardy and can stand up nicely to the vinaigrette. This dressing is thick and will weigh down delicate greens such as arugula alone. Butter lettuces are a perfect match for this salad.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Summer Squash Risotto with Parmesan and Sage

As I write this post, I will be leaving every couple minutes to stir this risotto, which is happily simmering on my stove this very minute. Lucky us. It smells like a bona fide restaurant in here, I kid you not. Every time I make something by Tyler Florence, as this dish happens to be, it smells like that. The man does not disappoint. His measurements are off sometimes, but if you are a seasoned enough cook, you can remedy them pretty easily. (stir count so far since writing started: 2) But I've already stirred it about 10 times.

I have had a super productive day. So far I have baked 3 cakes (without frosting), done the dishes, 2 loads of laundry, tidied up the house, taken care of my 3 kids, visited with my friend, and now I'm making this stellar dinner. I feel quite accomplished and deserving of my glass of wine. That's the best part about risotto, in my opinion. Most of the (good) recipes call for wine to be added to the rice and it's a perfectly good time to pour yourself a glass, turn the music up and stir, stir, stir, baby! (stir count: 4)

Risotto has a bad rap. Most people think it is labor intensive and in need of babysitting. Both are true, but not bad. You just have to be in or around the kitchen, then add a little liquid and stir every few minutes. It's not hard or bad. It's actually enjoyable and the vegetables roast while the risotto is cooking and honestly it's a cinch to make. It's impressive though with a wonderful wine-y, parmesan-y depth of flavor, so make it when you want to impress. Or for casual Friday night dinner like me. It can go either way. If you make risotto once, you'll make it over and over. (stir count: 6)

Summer Squash Risotto with Parmesan and Sage
adapted from Dinner At My Place by Tyler Florence

serves 4 to 6

4 small summer squash
4 small zucchini
4 pattypan squash
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 bunch fresh thyme sprigs (4 sprigs), leaves only
extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch fresh sage springs, leaves only
1 medium onion
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 750-mililiter bottle dry white wine
2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into thirds
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Riggiano cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash, zucchini, and pattypan squash into circles and slice onion. Set out on a roasting tray and scatter thyme leaves over the top. Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant (It took my veggies about 45-50 minutes to cook through, so the cooking time could vary drastically depending on your oven. If you know your oven runs a bit cooler, like mine, bump the temperature up to 375 degrees and roast until vegetable are tender).

While the vegetables roast, start the risotto. Set a large heavy-based pot over medium heat. Pour a 3-count of oil (about 3 tablespoons) into the pot and fry the sage leaves until they are crispy and crackly. Drain leaves on paper towels and set aside. Add onion to the pot and saute until fragrant and slightly translucent. Add rice and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat as you stir with a wooden spoon. Add the wine; cook until mostly evaporated. Begin adding broth, a little at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the broth each time before adding more. Continue to do this until the rice is tender but still has a little bite. (add water if necessary, if you use all the broth before the rice is done.) To finish, add butter and Parmigiano-Riggiano and stir to combine. Serve risotto with roasted vegetables on top.

This recipe adapts well to your preferences. Don't love zucchini? Roast butternut squash, onion and sweet potato with some spinach. Or eggplant and tomato. The possibilities are endless. Can't cook with alcohol? First of all I feel SO sorry for you, but just substitute the total amount of wine called for with more vegetable or chicken broth. It won't be AS flavorful, but you'll still rock it. Here's a little tip; you don't have to add the liquid in such small amounts. You can add about a cup at a time which will cut down the cooking time, but you will have to sit and stir the whole time, so I leave you to pick your method.