Saturday, December 13, 2014

Roasted butternut squash lasagna


The flavors in this vegetarian, roasted butternut squash lasagne are such a comforting & unique combo.  It's slightly sweet-ish from roasting & caramelizing the veggies and combined with the earthy, nuttiness of the fontina cheese and creaminess of a classic bechamel sauce (don't be scared of this fancy French terminology - it's totally not hard to make!)...it's pretty freaking phenomenal.

Give yourself some time to make this recipe - it's not one you want to try and bust out after work on a weeknight.  Lasagne's are notoriously a bit of a labor of love, but SO well worth the effort - and it makes great leftovers for later in the week!

To save a little time on this recipe, look for pre-cut butternut at the market - it's usually pretty plentiful this time of year.  I love to serve this dish with an arugula salad dressed simply with lemon, olive oil and S & P...it's a great bright, peppery balance with the sweet cheesiness of the lasagne.

Serves 8-10

8 c. butternut squash - peeled and cut into 1” cubes (about one,  2 1/2 - 3 pound squash)
1 onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges (leave root end attached so they stay held together)
2-3 T. olive oil
1 t. chopped fresh rosemary
1 t. chopped fresh thyme
2 t. chopped fresh sage
kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
1/2 c. chicken or veggie broth
pinch of nutmeg

1 package fresh lasagne noodles (can sub regular lasagne noodles)

béchamel:
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. all purpose flour
3 1/2 c. milk
salt & pepper to taste

2 1/2 c. grated fontina
1/4 c. grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Divide onion and squash between two rimmed baking sheets.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with herbs and salt & pepper. Gently toss with your hands to coat.  Place in oven and roast 45-55 minutes, stirring/flipping one or twice for even browning.  You are looking for a nice deep brown caramelization on the veggies.

While the veggies are roasting, cook lasagne noodles according to directions.  Drain, rinse well in cold water and keep very moist until you are ready to assemble lasagne.

Remove veggies and let them cool slightly.  Lower oven to 375 degrees.  Chop roasted onions.  Place butternut squash in large bowl with broth and mash with a potato masher until no large chunks remain.  Add onion and nutmeg to the squash and mix together.

To make béchamel, melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Add flour, whisk and cook for 1 minute.  Gradually add milk, whisking as you go.  Heat to boiling over medium-high heat.  Lower heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes, whisking often until thickened.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.

To assemble, spoon a little béchamel in the bottom of an oiled 

9 x 13 pan and spread to coat.  Place a layer of noodles and evenly spread half of the squash mixture, 1/3 of the fontina and 1/3 of the béchamel.  Repeat with another layer of noodles, the rest of the squash and another 1/3 of the fontina and béchamel. Finish with the last layer of noodles, the remaining 1/3 of the béchamel and fontina and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake 15 minutes more until cheese is browned.  Remove from oven and let sit 15 minutes before serving.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Udon noodle bowl with five-spice pork & shitake mushrooms


My whole family loves this satisfying, slurpy Asian noodle bowl...so warming & delicious on these chilly nights.  The pork balls are amaze balls & so gratifying with the udon noodles, bok choy and shitake mushrooms.  

It's kind of like the Asian version of spaghetti and meatballs, but with some chicken soup mixed it.  Obviously this meal = major comfort food.  If you like some heat, top it off with a little Sriracha or sambal oelek before serving.

Serves 4-6

Pork:
1 pound ground pork
1 1/2 t. minced garlic
1 1/2 t. minced ginger
1 t. minced lemongrass
2 t. soy sauce
1 t. fish sauce
2 t. Thai sweet chili sauce
1 t. Chinese five-spice
1 egg - beaten
1/2 c. breadcrumbs or panko
1 t. vegetable oil

8 c. chicken broth

2 T. soy sauce
2, 4-inch pieces of lemongrass - bruised
1 3-inch piece of ginger cut into 4-5 slices
8 oz. shitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
8 oz. udon noodles
4 c. packed chopped baby bok choy


Sriracha or sambal oelek (optional)

In a large bowl, combine pork, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, soy sauce, fish sauce, sweet chili sauce, five-spice, egg and panko.  Mix together using hands to combine ingredients thoroughly.  For into 24-26 one and a half inch balls.

Heat one t. vegetable oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Cook meatballs until nicely browned and cooked through, about 8-9 minutes, stirring to brown evenly.  Remove from pot and wipe out excess oil with a paper towel.

Add chicken broth, soy sauce, lemongrass, and ginger slices to pot and heat until simmering.  Add pork balls and mushrooms and simmer 10 minutes.  Remove ginger slices and lemongrass. 

Add udon noodles and cook as directed on the package.  Do not overcook, or they start to get mushy & fall apart.  Add bok choy and simmer 1-2 minutes more.  Serve topped with a little Sriracha or sambal if you want a little spice.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Turkey black bean chipotle chili


This is a "use-up-your-leftover-Thanksgiving-turkey" recipe.  I always hope & wish for more leftovers than I actually end up with, but if you do have some extra bird, this is a great way to put it to good use.  The other lovely thing is, you can use this recipe any time of year because it is just as delish with chopped rotisserie chicken in lieu of turkey.

I love the chipotle pepper with the black beans in this recipe.  Use just one for a mild smokiness and use 2-3 for some pumped-up spiciness, if that's your thang.

I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving filled with smiling faces & happy tummies.

Serves 6

1 T. olive oil
1 onion- chopped
3 cloves garlic - chopped
1 red pepper - diced
2 t. dried oregano
2 t. chili powder
1 t. cumin
2 t. kosher salt
1 T. tomato paste
1 T. brown sugar
grated zest of one orange
1-3 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced (depending on how spicy you like it)
4 c. chicken broth or turkey stock
2, 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
4 c. cooked, diced turkey (or chicken)
1/4 c. cilantro - chopped

garnishes: shredded jack or cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro & sour cream

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic and and red pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes. Next, add oregano, chili powder, cumin, salt, tomato paste, brown sugar, orange zest and chipotle peppers to the pot and stir to combine flavors.  Cook for 2 minutes.

Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add black beans, sweet potato & corn and return to a boil.  Lower heat to medium-low and let simmer for about an hour.

Add diced turkey and chopped cilantro and simmer 5 more minutes.  Serve in bowls and garnish with shredded cheese, chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.


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 visual...it 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 delicata...it'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 forever...so good to have on hand in the winter for all your soup making needs :)

Serves 8

Meatballs:
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 pecorino...it'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!