Saturday, November 22, 2014

Holiday mashed potatoes

These mashed potatoes are seriously the best part of our Thanksgiving meal (and also Christmas, because I serve them at both).  They beat the turkey, the stuffing, the pies.  They go with everything (I just served them with brisket tonight - amaze!)  I always make two 9 x 13 pans of them because they are also the best part of leftovers...and there are still never enough.

This recipe is tradition - I don't change a thing from the way my mom makes it.  It is not super sophisticated, and yes, it uses some somewhat questionable, store-bought cans of  "crispy onions" (think French's, but there are also fancier, organic brands out there), but I guarantee that these holiday potatoes are the most delicious & satisfying dish you will feature on your table.  They put regular mashed potatoes to shame.  And the best part is, you can assemble most of it ahead of time so there is one less thing to do on "the day of the bird"...just put them in to bake while your turkey is resting and your timing will be perfect!

Serves 10

4 medium Russet potatoes (about 3 pounds) - peeled and cut into a 1/2 inch dice
4 T. butter
2, 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
3 eggs
4 T. all purpose flour
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
1 onion - finely chopped
6 oz. can of crispy onions (i.e. French’s or Whole Foods 365 brand)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Place diced potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Add a few generous pinches of salt.  Turn heat to medium high and bring potatoes to a gentle boil.  Once boiling, cook 5 minutes.  Drain well and place back in the warm cooking pot to dry slightly.  Add butter and mash well.  You should have about 4 cups of mashed potatoes.

Combine mashed potatoes, cream cheese, eggs, flour and salt & pepper in a large bowl.  Mash it all together until thoroughly-combined.  Add onion and mix until well.  Spread evenly in a buttered 9 x 13 pan.  (Potato mixture may seem a little loose at this point.)

Sprinkle an even layer of the crispy onions over the potatoes.  Place in oven and bake 45 minutes until puffed & onions are browned and they are just set (not too jiggly) in the middle.  Allow to rest 10-15 minutes before serving.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Roasted delicata squash with pepitas & pomeganate

Introducing another roasted squash recipe for you to explore.  I really want to spread the "squash-love" this fall because they are so delicious & easy to make and often overlooked because you may not know what to do with them.  A couple weeks ago, I did honey-roasted kabocha with ginger-lime creme-fraiche and it has seriously become one of my all-time favorite things to eat.  

This time, it is the delicata squash.  Here is a looks like a fat, yellow zucchini and it is so easy to work with.  The skin is edible and the flavor is mild and so yummy & sweet when you get them nice and browned in the oven.  I've served them twice recently to people unfamiliar with this veggie and both times, everyone was raving.  You really just slice 'em up & roast them and you can't go wrong.  
Both this and the kabocha recipe would be easy & amazing sides for your Thanksgiving feast. The pepitas and pomegranate add a nice crunch & pretty pop of color to the creamy's seasonal & festive and completely vegan if you or any of your guests roll that way.

Serves 6

1/2 c. raw pepitas

3 delicata squash
2 T. olive oil
1 T. chopped fresh rosemary
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

4 Anaheim peppers - cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 t. olive oil
1/4 t. kosher salt

1 t. chopped garlic
2 T. fresh chopped basil
1/2 c. pomegranate arils

Preheat oven to 350. Place pepitas on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.  Turn oven heat up to 450.

Cut delicate squash in half lengthwise and scrape seeds to remove.  Slice each half crosswise into 1/2 thick crescent-shaped pieces.  Toss with 2 T. rosemary, oregano, kosher salt & pepper.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and put in the oven.

Roast squash for 20 minutes.  While roasting, toss Anaheim peppers with 2 t. olive oil & 1/4 t. kosher salt and place on another rimmed baking sheet.  When squash has roasted 20 minutes, flip pieces so they will brown evenly on both sides and return to oven.  Place the baking sheet with the peppers in the oven at this time as well.

Roast squash & peppers 20 minutes, stirring peppers once.  Remove the pan with squash, sprinkle the chopped garlic over them and stir.  Return to oven for 4 more minutes to cook garlic. 

Remove squab & peppers from the oven - the squash should be nicely browned on both sides and the peppers soft & slightly browned. Toss together with basil & pepitas and sprinkle with pomegranate arils to serve.  Season with more salt & pepper if necessary.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Spinach meatball minestrone soup

This is a perfect, hearty soup to make on a crisp, autumn weekend (not that I can relate since it's in the freaking 80's here today - c'mon fall!).  It has all the classic flavors of minestrone - tomato, fall root veggies & tons of herbs - plus the awesome added bonus of spinach meatballs.  Oh, how I love thee, balls o' meat!  

I love to add the hard (normally unusable) rind from a block of Parmesan to the broth while simmering this minestrone.  It adds a subtle depth of flavor to your soups - an ancient Italian secret for increasing deliciousness.  Whenever I finish a wedge of Parm, I just save the rinds in a baggie in the refrigerator and they last good to have on hand in the winter for all your soup making needs :)

Serves 8

2 eggs - beaten
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
3 medium cloves garlic - chopped
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
1/3 c. grated Parmesan
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach - thawed and squeezed very dry

2-4 T. olive oil - divided
1 onion - chopped
3 carrots - peeled and sliced
3 celery - sliced
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
6 c. low sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 springs fresh thyme
2 T. chopped fresh basil
1 t. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1 t. kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
1 Parmesan rind (optional)
1 medium turnip - peeled & cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 large Yukon gold potato, cut into 1/2 inch dice

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk and breadcrumbs.  Stir to combine.  Add the meat, garlic, salt & pepper, Parmesan and spinach.  Use hands to thoroughly combine ingredients.  With slightly damp hands, roll into about 40, 1-inch balls. 

In a large soup pot, heat 2 T. olive oil over medium heat.  Add meatballs can cook, turning occasionally to brown all sides, until cooked through - about 8 minutes.  You may need to work in 2 batches - don’t overcrowd the meatballs while cooking or they won't brown nicely.  Set meatballs aside.

In the same soup pot, over medium low heat, add the onion.  Cook until translucent - about 7 minutes.  Add garlic, carrots and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with their juice. Roughly chop the tomatoes with kitchen shears.  Add chicken broth, whole springs of rosemary & thyme, chopped basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt & pepper and Parmesan rind.  Bring to a boil.

Add the turnip, potato and meatballs.  Bring back to a boil, then lower heat to a brisk simmer.  Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally  (or even longer…just use lower heat & very gentle simmer at this point).

When ready to serve, remove the rosemary and thyme stems (the leaves will have detached into the soup), the bay leaf and the Parmesan rind.  Serve topped generously with grated Parmesan.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pan-charred brussels sprouts with roasted grapes, pecans & pecorino

Brussels sprouts have definitely emerged as a star veggie over the past few years.  I find them on so many small-plate, gastro-pubby menus these days and seem to quite happily order them every time.  They are such a yummy & nutritious fall & winter vegetable.  

I'm pretty sure they are now a staple dish on most Thanksgiving tables as well.  And it is now November, people, so it's go-time on planning "the big meal." This is definitely a dish to add to your list.  

The key to these tasty brussels is to caramelize the hell out of them. Don't be afraid of getting them super charred, brown & toasty.  Tossed with uber sweet roasted grapes, lots of crunchy toasted pecans & salty's a great flavor/texture combo.  You will love.

Serves 6

1 c. whole red or black grapes
2 large shallots - thinly sliced
1 t. olive oil
salt & pepper
3/4 c.  pecans - very roughly chopped

2 T. olive oil
1 pound brussel sprouts - trimmed and halved
1 T. butter
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. grated pecorino

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

On a small rimmed baking sheet, toss the grapes and sliced shallots with 1 t. olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper and place in oven.  Roast for 20 minutes, stirring one or twice throughout cooking.

Place pecans on another small rimmed baking sheet.  Add them to the oven with the grapes and shallots for their last 10 minutes of roasting to toast pecans.  Remove grapes & shallots and pecans. 

Preheat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium low-heat on the stove for 5 minutes.  When warm, add 2 T. of olive oil and heat oil until hot.  Add the brussel sprouts to the pan, cut side down, in a single layer.  Increase the heat to medium/medium-high and let brussels cook, without stirring them, for 7 minutes - you are looking for a nice, deep brown char on them.

After 7 minutes, give them a stir, add 1 T. of butter, season with salt & pepper and cook 3-4 more minutes, stirring often, to caramelize the other sides of the sprouts.  Turn off heat, add 1 T. balsamic vinegar and toss to coat.

Add grapes & shallots, the toasted pecans, and pecorino to the skillet and toss to combine flavors.  Ready to serve!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pecorino & pine nut stuffed artichokes

These stuffed artichokes are a special treat in my family. I think they are a lovey thing to serve when you have friends or family over because who doesn't find an artichoke to be delicious and fun to share and eat?!  I love a good interactive food.  These would be a gorgeous & impressive starter to a Thanksgiving feast.

If you want to simplify things, you can just follow the recipe until the artichokes are steamed, serve with some melted butter & call it a day.  But if you have a little extra time, I highly recommend going all the way with the stuffing - it's a whole new level of deliciousness.

Serves 8

4 artichokes
2 c. water
1/2 c. white wine
2 bay leaves
1 lemon - sliced
4 cloves garlic - smashed
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. salt

1 T. olive oil
1/2 c. onion - finely chopped
3 cloves garlic - finely chopped
2 T. butter
1 c. fresh, soft bread crumbs
2 T. chopped fresh basil
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
zest of one lemon
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. grated Pecorino
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
lemon juice, olive oil to drizzle

Cut the stems from artichokes so they can sit flat.  Using a serrated knife, cut off the top 1/4 of the artichoke flower (usually about an inch).  Pull off the bottom layers of tough, outer leaves, and trim the thorns of remaining leaves with kitchen shears.

Heat the water, wine, bay leaves, lemon slices, smashed garlic, olive oil and salt in a large pot with a lid to boiling.  Add artichokes in a single layer, turn heat down to a simmer and cover.  Steam about 30 minutes until tender.  Remove from pot with tongs and allow to cool until you can handle them - about 15 minutes.

While artichoke are cooling, you can assemble your stuffing.  Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent, stirring frequently - about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook one minute.  Remove from skillet and place in a medium bowl.  Wipe skillet clean.

In the same skillet, melt 2 T. butter over medium heat.  Add bread crumbs and toast until golden brown, stirring occasionally - about 5 minutes.  Add to bowl with onion & garlic.  Add the chopped basil & parsley, lemon zest, salt, Pecorino and toasted pine nuts and stir to combine.

Remove the center, inner leaves and choke (the fuzzy, hairy bits) of the artichoke.  I use a small spoon with sharp edge or to carefully scrape the choke out.  Place 1 T. of filling in the center of each artichoke.  Gently spread the artichoke leaves apart and divide the remaining filling between them.  Place in a baking dish, cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, drizzle with fresh lemon juice & a little more olive oil and serve.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Farfalle with caramelized onions, sausage, fennel & kale

When I talk about this pasta with my family I have dubbed it "the world's greatest pasta." I joke, of course, because the list of my favorite pasta recipes is long, but this is pretty freaking phenomenal. 

Now, I'm not gonna lie...not the most lowfat recipe.  It's not vegetarian, vegan, Paleo or gluten-free.  Delicious, yes. Satisfying, yes. Tummy & heart-warming, yes.  Perfect for a fall or winter night, yes.  And it has kale in it, so it has to be healthy, right?

Serves 6

3 T. olive oil, divided
1 pound loose Italian sausage

2 medium onions - sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 large fennel bulb - white bulb cored & sliced 1/8 inch thick
4 cloves garlic - chopped
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. ground fennel

1 pound farfalle
4 c. packed, chopped kale (bite-size pieces)
1 1/2 c. cream
1/2 c. grated Parmesan

Heat 1 T. olive oil in a 12 inch, heavy-bottom skillet over medium high heat.  Add sausage, breaking up with a wooden spoon.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned and no longer pink in the middle, about 8 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Soak up any excess grease out skillet with a paper towel, but leave the browned bits from the sausage. Heat remaining 2 T. olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and fennel, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.  **At any point, if it seems like the bottom of the pan is burning, add a couple tablespoons of water and stir to deglaze the pan.**  When onions & fennel have softened, turn heat to medium-low, remove the lid and continue to cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Toward the end of cooking onions & fennel, heat up your pasta cooking water.  Be sure to add salt!

When onions & fennel are very soft and golden blond color, turn the heat back up to medium high.  Add the garlic and cook one minute.  Add the cooked sausage, red pepper flakes and ground fennel.

Add farfalle to boiling water and cook according to al dente directions and drain.

While farfalle is boiling, add kale to the skillet with 1/4 c. of water. Cover and cook until kale is wilted - about 3 minutes.  Remove lid and let any water evaporate.  Turn heat to medium low, add cream and stir.  Let simmer 2-3 minutes.

Add cooked farfalle and stir to coat evenly with cream sauce.  Toss with 1/2 c. Parmesan.  It’s ready to serve - pass more Parmesan at the table if desired.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Chicken posole soup

I guess it has "cooled off" enough here in LA (80's in the day & down to a brisk 65 in the night - whoa.) to actually consider it "soup weather."  Here is one of my childhood favorites...

Posole is a Mexican soup/stew that involves hominy.  If you aren't familiar with hominy, it's fun & awesome. It's a large, puffy, slightly chewy version of a dried corn that has been soaked in a mineral lime bath.  The kernels actually undergo a chemical change and soften & expand into yummy, pillow-y hominy.  It can be found dried or canned.  I just use canned in this recipe for simplicity, but you can soak and cook the dried like beans if you have the time and inclination.  

Some traditional posoles call for pork, but this is a quicker version made with pre-cooked chicken.  It may be a poquito gringo, but it's delicious & nourishing & heart-warming a11 the same!  There are tons of pretty, flavorful condiments to add on top of the soup - it's kinda like dressing up for the whole family! Muy delicioso!

Serves 6

2 T. olive oil
1 onion - chopped
3 cloves garlic - chopped
1 T. chili powder
1 T. oregano
1 T. brown sugar
1/4 c. masa corn flour (use regular, fine corn flour or all-purpose if you can't find masa)
2 quarts chicken stock
2 t. salt
1 t. fresh ground pepper
3, 15 oz. cans hominy
4 c. cooked chicken - diced or shredded

Garnishes (pick your favorites): 

* chopped cilantro
* limes wedges
finely shredded cabbage 
diced avocado
hot sauce (optional)

shredded jack cheese
sour cream

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until transparent - about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add chopped garlic and cook 1 minute.

Add chili powder, oregano, brown sugar and masa corn flour.  Cook 2 minutes to toast spices, stirring occasionally.  Add chicken stock, salt & pepper, hominy and chicken and stir.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer briskly for at least a half an hour, stirring occasionally.  If you have more time, simmer longer to let flavors mingle all the more but at a lower temperature (my mom would let this cook for a few hours on a low simmer).  Broth should reduce a bit and thicken slightly.

Serve in bowls and top with whatever garnishes suit your fancy.  Fresh lime juice & cilantro are a must!