Pumpkin Grits with Sausage and Onion

This week, the Northeast suffered a MASSIVE weather event. HUGE amounts of snow were predicted from Monday night into Tuesday. “Be prepared,” we were warned. “Stock up!”

Even if it had turned out worse in my area, which only saw about 10-12″ and no power outages (some areas nearby were worse off), I sincerely question any large-scale concern about having enough food. Caring for babies, people with medical conditions, etc.? Yes you need to take precautions. But most of us? So the power is out for a couple of days. Most people’s stock of pasta and peanut butter would last them weeks!

I didn’t have to resort to peanut noodles…though that actually sounds good right about now. Earlier in the week, I had come across a great recipe that could incorporate more of my freezer stash: a half of a package of italian sausage and some pumpkin purée. On Sunday night I transferred the items to the fridge to thaw. The recipe also called for rosemary, which fortunately I had snipped before the bush was buried in snow. Alas, I had power and gas on Tuesday! Once the driveway was plowed, and the work-from-home workday ended, I prepared a rather refined dinner.
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Pumpkin Grits with Sausage and Onion
Adapted from The New York Times Cooking
Serves 2 as a meal

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1 bay leaf
3/4 Cup cornmeal grits (or fine polenta, or coarse cornmeal)
water as needed according to package directions
about 2/3 Cup – at least 6 ounces pumpkin purée
1.5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
, more as needed
1/2 to 3/4 pounds sweet or hot Italian sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 large onion
, sliced into thin half moons
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Heat your water (3 cups in my case) in a medium pot with salt and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Gradually stir in the grits. Add the pumpkin.

Note: leaving a metal whisk in a metal pot as shown here is not a good idea.

Note: leaving a metal whisk in a metal pot as shown here is not a good idea.


Lower the heat so the mixture is at a simmer. Stir frequently until the grits are tender, about 30 minutes.

While the grits cook, prepare the sausage and caramelized onions.
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Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add your sausage, rosemary and fennel seeds.
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Cook and turn until the sausage is browned and cooked, about 10 minutes.
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Remove sausage from pan and place on a paper-towel lined plate. There should be some oil remaining in the pan–if not, add some more. Add the onions and cook on low until they are soft and golden, 10 to 15 minutes.
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When the grits are tender, stir in butter and black pepper. Add additional seasoning to taste.
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Return sausage to the onion pan and heat through. Spoon polenta into two bowls. Top with sausage and onion. Garnish with additional rosemary.
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Enjoy the snow while it lasts!

Roasted Chicken Sofrito

Happy New Year!

Where has the time gone? 2015 is well under way. I know my blog has been quiet the past few months. I can explain away the last month, at least, by pointing to all the holiday planning and gatherings and dining out. Before that, of course, there was the slam of my new job, commute, class work…and the end of the CSA. I no longer have cooking inspiration built into my life!

The quiet end-of-December period did give me the chance to devote at least a couple of stretches of time to cooking projects. As I saw a major calendar flip approaching, it seemed imperative that I give attention to some of the (previously prepared or semi-prepared) items in my freezer that were dated from 2014…some with months lower numbered than I care to admit.

DSC_1426One such item was a cupful of sofrito I had made to use up some herbs along with the in- season tomatoes and peppers. I’m still not sure why I didn’t make a dish with it right away, since this recipe (which I think I followed for the sofrito) is quite easy.

This sofrito discovery coincided with a rare craving for roasted poultry. You see, like many people, Christmas dinner in my family features a non-turkey entrée such as ham, pork, or lasagna. It’s all delicious. I just thought it was time to have a little chicken in my life.

I found my inspiration in a version of chicken & rice from Food & Wine and headed to the store. Little did I know, I would be presented with another opportunity to demonstrate my make haste not waste philosophy! While I was having trouble finding chicken legs, I came across a whole cut up chicken at a greatly reduced “manager’s special” price, because it was being sold the day it was dated “sell by.” Perfect! Some grocery stores won’t even offer shelf space for these perfectly good items. What a shame! You need to be careful with meat and dairy dates, unlike many other products, but fortunately I planned to cook the chicken right away. (And the extra pieces I added to other chicken carcasses in the freezer to finally make some chicken stock a few days later.)

So let’s get to it.

Roasted Chicken Sofrito with Rice
From Food and Wine

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
drumsticks, thighs, and breasts from 1 whole chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (split 1/4 teaspoon “hot” chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon regular), plus more for dusting
1 Cup prepared sofrito, plus
10 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1/2 small onion
, diced
2 large thyme sprigs
3 Cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 1/4 Cup short-grain white rice
, such as sushi rice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 Cup roasted almonds, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375°F.
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Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust lightly with chili powder.

In a Dutch oven or other large ovenproof skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until well browned, about 4 minutes per side.
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If you're impatient like me, you could use an extra skillet for the extra chicken.

If you’re impatient like me, you could use an extra skillet for the extra chicken.

Transfer to a plate.
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Add the sofrito, thyme sprigs, and onion to the skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
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I didn't decide it needed the onion until after first starting to warm the sofrito.

I didn’t decide it needed the onion until after first starting to warm the sofrito.

Once the onion is beginning soften, add the diced tomatoes. Bring the mixture up to a bubble, then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil.

Stir in the rice and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer. Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice, with the skin side up.
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Place the pot, uncovered, in the upper third of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Check to see if the chicken is cooked through (some cuts may finish before others) and the rice has absorbed the stock. It took nearly 30 minutes for the fat chicken breasts from my chicken to come up to 165.
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Turn on the broiler and try to get the pot within 6 inches of the heat to crisp the chicken skin, if possible.

Remove the chicken to a separate plate. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs.

Add in the lemon juice.
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Spoon rice onto the place and scatter with some almonds. Add the chicken and serve.
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How was it? Man it was delicious. Yes, it satisfied my desire for chicken. Of course my favorite part was the rice. It had an unbelievable texture, almost like risotto. The flavors of green chiles and acidic tomatoes and lemon juice combined with the rich chicken juices plus a satisfying crunch from almonds–talk about truly crave-able.
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Here’s to a filling and fulfilling 2015!

Leek and Squash Soup

I’m still here! It’s been a busy time. Shall I fill you in? For starters, after two years in a job that didn’t inspire me, I made the switch. The old job happened to come with a short commute and hours that afforded me a generous amount of free time to cook and clean and socialize. Now, I’m commuting from the suburbs to the city, a hub of activity and excitement. It requires a bit more time and energy, but I was ready for it. While I’m still young, I’m going to go where things are happening!

September is a special month, filled with birthdays and wedding anniversaries (such as my own, for both), including a new anniversary established by one of my sisters, who married at a lovely ceremony on September 6. September also has the unique feature of containing two of the most pleasant seasons, summer and fall.

Along with all the events and occasions and changes, it’s harvest time. Tomatoes and zucchini and peppers continue to stream in from the farm share, plus new crops of potatoes and squash. It’s a good time to stay home and cook!

Yet Matt and I also took an overdue trip to visit some of my family in Vermont. We enjoyed a lovely September weekend that included exploring a number of farms in the region by bicycle. (Almost 30 miles of biking…I was almost too exhausted to fully appreciate the agricultural wonders!) During the visit, I made a casual comment about how much I like leeks. I noted that because my farm share so rarely includes them in the weekly offering, and I never buy them because I have plenty of vegetables, I don’t enjoy them at home as much as I think I would. My sister proceeded to pull a bunch out of her garden and send them home with us. So exciting! First I grilled a couple along with zucchini and added walnuts and a lemon dressing with parsley as per this recipe. I knew I wanted to use a bunch of them in a soup. Then the acorn squashes on the counter called my name.
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As usual, I sought out a recipe for validation. Like many soups, however, this is one that you could totally wing. I realized well after the fact that it was especially appropriate to make a squash soup at the end of September around my anniversary, because we served little cups of butternut squash soup for one of the courses at our wedding four(!) years ago!
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Acorn Squash and Leek Soup
Adapted from Food & Wine

3 1/2 pounds acorn squash (about two small) or similar, halved
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large leeks
, white and tender green parts, roughly chopped
5 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried
4 Cups chicken stock or low sodium broth
1 teaspoons salt
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Optional toppings:
About 5 Tablespoons sour cream
About 2 Tablespoons chives
, chopped
2-4 slices of bacon (to taste), cooked and crumbled

Set the oven to 350°. Prepare the squash by slicing in half.
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The recipe I followed said to scrape out seeds AFTER the halves are cooked, but I would recommend scraping them out at this point. Place the squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet.
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Roast until tender, checking at 30 minutes. Allow to cool so that you can handle the squash.

In the meantime, prep your leeks by washing thoroughly in a few changes of water. I took my green parts and tossed them in my freezer bag of vegetable scraps; I recently read that they contribute nicely to well-flavored vegetable stock.
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Chop up the white and light green parts.
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Set your large heavy saucepan or Dutch Oven over low heat. Add the butter and melt. Toss in the leeks and thyme and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until soft and browned, about 40 minutes.

Before...

Before…


After!

After!


Discard the thyme sprigs.

When your squash is ready to handle, separate the flesh from the skin. If you waited until this point to scoop out and discard the seeds, do this now, taking care not to toss out too much of the delicious roasted flesh.
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Then scrape the squash from the skin. Get all the good stuff!
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Stir the stock and squash into the leek butter mixture.

Simmer for about 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender, or in a blender or food processor, puree the soup until smooth.
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Season with the salt and pepper.

Spoon the soup into bowls and top each with 1 Tablespoon sour cream, a sprinkling of the bacon, and 1 teaspoon fresh chives if you have them, for garnish. Serve with toast to round out the dish.
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Peppermint Fudgesicles

I can enjoy ice cream year-round, no matter the weather. Judging by the number of ice cream shops and frozen yogurt places in my suburban area, I am in good company. Where I grew up, in a small town, the ice cream places were seasonal. It was a special treat to play tennis with my dad outside on the high school courts and then drive to an ice cream shop on the outskirts of town–the one that made the best sundaes. Other times of year, it was rare to find our home freezer devoid of Breyer’s natural vanilla ice cream.

Some frozen treats are more refreshing than others. When the heat and humidity of summer finally arrived this year, right as the calendar was switching to September, I had a very particular craving. I wanted something on a stick. There’s something about the iciness of popsicles, and the fact that one can literally wrap one’s mouth around them, that makes me feel cooler, amidst the stickiness. Many of the bloggers I follow started making popsicles regularly in the past year. They offer recipes with interesting ingredients like butterscotch, pink lemonade, and strawberry with coconut. But those didn’t quite fit the bill. I wanted a fudgesicle.
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Hence my decision to make them at home. I did use Smitten Kitchen’s 2011 recipe as a guide. I particularly appreciate her inclusion of ounces and grams, because I have that digital kitchen scale that helps make measurement easy and requires fewer utensils. Once I had all of my other ingredients set out and was reaching for the vanilla extract, I thought, why not add this peppermint extract for extra oomph?
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Another note: I have yet to add real popsicle molds to my kitchen collection. No worries: a mishmash of free shot glasses, like mine, work just fine. If you have those little disposable paper cups some people keep in bathrooms, they would work great.
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Peppermint Fudgesicles
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Fudge Popsicles recipe

2 Tablespoons / 21 grams / 3/4 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped or as chips or chunks
1/3 Cup / 67 grams / 2 1/3 ounce granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon / 7 grams / 1/4 ounce cornstarch
1 1/2 Tablespoons / 8 grams / 1/4 ounce unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Cup fat free milk
1/4 Cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 Tablespoon / 7 grams / 1/4 ounce unsalted butter

Set a medium saucepan over very low heat. Add the chocolate and gently melt, stirring until smooth.
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Incorporate sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, milk and salt. Turn up the heat slightly and cook mixture until it thickens, stirring often. This will take no shorter than 5 minutes and could take 10. Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter and stir until melted. Add peppermint extract.
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Be careful not to over-pour…when the peppermint extract came out of the bottle and into my spoon a little too fast to capture, I feared I had ruined the whole batch (spoiler alert: I didn’t.)

Mix well. Allow to cool slightly, and then pour into shot glasses.

It's easier to transport the fudgesicles to and from the freezer if you corral them in a single container, like this Pyrex.

It’s easier to transport the fudgesicles to and from the freezer if you corral them in a single container, like this Pyrex.


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Now the popsicles need to be frozen slightly before the adding the sticks. If you try to stick them too early, the fudge mixture won’t support the stick enough to stay centered. On the other hand, you can’t let the popsicles freeze too much or you won’t be able to get the stick in, nor will the mixture adhere to the stick, for holding, once frozen. Deb from Smitten Kitchen said it would take 30 minutes for the mixture to freeze enough to add the sticks, but this will really depend on how much you let your mixture cool, or how cold your freezer is. After 30 minutes, my sticks were still flopping over. At this point, I had to go to bed, so I couldn’t wait. I made it work: with scotch tape, I supported the sticks so they would stay centered. Why not?
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The next night, the fudgesicles were fully frozen and ready to be enjoyed.

Remove them from the freezer, and dip the glass in a mug of warm water until the popsicle melts enough on the sides to pull out.
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Mini fudgesicle!

Mini fudgesicle!


Now this is summer.

Miso Soba Noodles with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I knew the day would come when I would have plenty of tomatoes. If I was ever worried about not getting my fill of ripe tomatoes this summer, my cherry tomato plants have been sure to put me at ease. I can’t complain about the steady output from the two plants. In fact, I am particularly pleased that the plump orbs keep well on the counter, several days after being picked. They are easy to share with friends and family, and they just keep coming.
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Fresh cherry or grape tomatoes are wonderful for snacking, but I do love me a cooked tomato, warm and burst open at the seams. Don’t you? Roasted cherry tomatoes serve as the topping for this delicious soba noodle dish, a recipe I picked from Blue Apron. I only used the Blue Apron delivery service once so far, but I’m on the mailing list, and I saw this recipe in July. It seemed unusual to use tomatoes in a Japanese-inspired preparation. It intrigued me. Fortunately, my red miso stood ready (in place of the original recipe’s “hatcho miso”). In addition, I happen to have allowed myself to supplement my stock of CSA vegetables with the purchase a beautiful, leafy head of broccoli from a farm stand on my way home from a North Fork winery event over the weekend.
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A portion of this broccoli took the place of what would have been Chinese broccoli. I even used some of the stems, peeled to remove the tough outer portion, and chopped. I keep reading that broccoli stems can be delicious, and I shudder to think of the dozens of giant broccoli stalks I’ve sent to the garbage in my day!
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Even with a few modifications, the meal came out great. I wished I had made twice as much. It’s definitely a keeper!
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Miso Soba Noodles with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Adapted from Blue Apron

6 ounces Broccoli of any type, including leaves, finely chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced and whites and greens separated
about half a small white onion, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons red miso paste
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3/4 Cup water
, divided
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger root
A few springs of cilantro
1 large clove garlic
1/2 small onion
, chopped
2 teaspoons sesame oil (toasted is fine)
2 Tablespoons roasted peanuts
2 Tablespoons sugar
5 ounces cherry tomatoes
8 ounces soba noodles
2 teaspoons white sesame seeds

Wash the produce, chop, and set aside. The ginger root should be peeled and minced. The cilantro leaves can be picked from the stems, roughly chopped, and set in a bowl. Half will be added in the cooking process, and half will be saved for garnish.

Another topping will be candied chopped peanuts (cashews are preferred, if you have them).
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To prepare, set a small pot with the sugar and 1/4 Cup of water over medium-high heat. Also prepare a small pan lined with a little bit of parchment paper. Allow the water-sugar mixture to boil, without stirring, for several minutes, until the color starts to change into a golden blonde. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped peanuts.
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Then pour the mixture onto the parchment paper. Spread evenly and allow to cool.

DSC_9561Here’s where it gets exciting (for the person washing dishes)! For the tomatoes, preheat the oven to 450°F. For the soba noodles, fill a medium pot with water and set over heat to boil. Grab a large sauté pan for the vegetables.

In a small bowl, whisk together the miso paste, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and ½ Cup of water, until smooth.

On a sheet plan, spread the cherry tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast 6 to 8 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and keep warm.
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Meanwhile, cook the soba noodles briefly in the boiling water, 1 to 2 minutes. The noodles will remain somewhat firm. Drain and return to pan with a little bit of warm water to prevent sticking.

DSC_9566In the vegetable pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add the ginger, onion, and white part of scallions.

Sauté gently until they begin to soften. Add the broccoli and cook for several minutes until it becomes slightly tender. It’s likely that the broccoli stem portions will remain slightly crunchy, unless you pre-cook them, but they will add some nice additional texture.

Pour in the miso mixture, the cooked soba noodles, half of the cilantro, and the green parts of the scallions.
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Cook for a few minutes, at which point most of the liquid will be absorbed. Remove from heat and taste for additional salt and pepper.

To serve, place the noodle mixture on each of two plates. Top with the roasted tomatoes and chopped candied peanuts. Finally, add the remaining cilantro and a sprinkling of sesame seeds

Mmm delicious!

Mmm delicious!

Everything Beer Cheese Bread and Beer Poached Shrimp with Fennel

I’m not always great with decisions. Ceramic, porcelain or stone tile for the bathroom floor? Buy the 2 year or 5 year extended warranty? What color fireplace stone and curtains will match our current living room? Should I get a green or a blue sweater; which do I have more of in my closet? Should I spend the next 45 minutes of free time cleaning the kitchen floor or filing the office receipts?

You can imagine that restaurant ordering presents a challenge for me. The worst (or best) example of a paralyzing menu is from Shopsin’s, known for a menu like none other. Ooh boy, I feel a twinge of anxiety coming. Can’t I have an extra stomach, available to access on the special occasions when I know I’ll never again get the chance to taste this particular preparation of food? I like to believe that my difficulties stem from some kind of advanced analytical ability, i.e. my brain is processing the complexities of the situation and considering all angles before reaching the best conclusion (not likely). The problem is, most of the time the choice is no big deal! Take my cooking choices: these are by no means life or death. Yet there are times I wish someone else would tell me, outright, exactly what to do with ingredient X, Y, Z.

That’s how I was feeling last week when I put a query out on Facebook, asking what to do with the leftover beer cans in our fridge.
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I explained that I had no intention of drinking the beer plain, now six months past its purchase date (as if I ever choose to drink it “fresh”). I expected to catch a little more flack, since it sounds a bit snobbish. Indeed, I came home last Friday to find that my father, who was visiting for the weekend, had cracked one open to sample. My dad is no elitist. Born on a farm during the Great Depression, I can always count on him to check food for spoilage–allowing great leeway, of course. He consumes leftovers with a gusto. In other words, he’s great to have around.

People were quick to respond to my poll. Beer batter, fondue, brats, soup, and “target practice” were among the answers. The most popular idea, by far, was beer can chicken. Beer chicken wasn’t something I was tempted to make at the time, but the idea of using beer to cook shellfish was spot-on. Also, the runner-up response, beer bread, caught my eye. I knew adding cheese was an option. In fact, I could really add anything to the bread that pairs well with beer, which meant tapping into the CSA vegetable share. An oniony, starchy, gooey, boozy concoction was on its way.

In case you’re counting, six cans remained after my Dad’s refreshment. Two cans went into dinner on Saturday night, for Beer Cheese Bread with Everything Bagel Topping and Warm Beer Poached Shrimp and Fennel Salad. Two recipes for the price of one in this week’s post!

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Beer Poached Shrimp and Fennel Salad
From Bryan Miller in The New York Times

Vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon fresh dill or fennel fronds, chopped
1½ teaspoons mustard, preferably spicy
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper
, to taste

Poached Shrimp:
12 ounces of light beer
2 cloves garlic
, peeled and smashed
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1 pound shrimp, peeled
Salt and pepper, to taste

Fennel, etc.:
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 fennel bulbs
, cored, sliced thin and cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
Additional dill or fennel fronds for garnish

Prepare vinaigrette. You will need to adjust seasoning according to your mustard. I used a combination of Dijon and coarse stone-ground mustard, enhanced with a touch of pepper. Fennel fronds made up a good portion of the herbs for my vinaigrette. I should have had plenty of dill, since I planted it in my garden this spring, but it went mostly to seed before I got the chance to use it!
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In a deep saucepan (with lid reserved), pour beer and add garlic, dill sprigs/fennel fronds, and some salt and pepper. At medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil before lowering the heat and allowing it to simmer for ten minutes.
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Meanwhile, take a separate skillet/saute pan and heat the olive over medium heat. Stir in your bite-sized fennel pieces and cook until they are starting to soften. Remove from stove. You can place the fennel on the serving plate, but keep warm.
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In the saucepan with the beer, drop the shrimp. Turn heat up, cover with lid and cook for about a minute. Turn off heat and remove lid.
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Use a slotted spoon to remove and drain the shrimp. Arrange shrimp over the fennel. Pour vinaigrette over the salad and add more salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with fresh dill or fennel fronds.

The quantity shown here is a scaled down portion of the full recipe.

The quantity shown here is a scaled down portion of the full recipe.

 


 

As I mentioned earlier, the beer cheese bread recipe is highly adaptable. The recipe on myrecipes.com includes several suggestions. I used shallots and scallions because I had some, already pre-chopped from other recipes. The scallions got me thinking of my favorite bagel spread, scallion cream cheese, which got me thinking about bagels, which reminded me of the Everything Bagel Topping I purchased from good ol’ King Arthur Flour. Of course, you can replicate everything bagel topping with the requisite individual ingredients of onion, sesame, poppy seed, garlic and salt. I thought all of this would pair well with cheddar cheese, a type I always have on hand, in place of the Monterey Jack cheese specified in the original recipe. What a delicious brainstorm. I imagine being asked at a restaurant if I would like something from the beer, cheese, or bread section of the menu. Easy answer: “Yes, please.”
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Beer Cheese Bread with Everything Bagel Topping
Adapted from Cooking Light’s recipe on myrecipes.com

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 Cup shallot
, finely chopped
1/4 Cup scallions, sliced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove
, minced
13.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 Cups)
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Cup (4 ounces) cheddar cheese
, shredded
12 ounces bottle light lager beer
Cooking spray
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
, melted
2-3 Tablespoons Everything Bagel topping

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Preheat oven to 375°.

In a small skillet set on medium-low, heat the olive oil. Add shallots and green onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to caramelize (about 7 minutes).
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Add pepper and garlic, stir to incorporate for 1 minute.

Measure flour and combine with sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir with a whisk.
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Make a well in the center of the dry mixture for adding the onion mixture, cheese, and beer. Stir to moisten the batter completely. Lumps are OK.

Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray. Pour batter in and drizzle 1 Tablespoon of melted butter. Sprinkle with the everything bagel topping.
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Bake at 375° for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. After about 30 minutes, you could drizzle additional butter on top.

Pay no attention to the beat-up oven mitts!

Pay no attention to the beat-up oven mitts!


Cool for a few minutes, and then turn loaf out of pan to cool completely. I took my bread out of the oven a little early, so it was still very moist in the center. This gave it a deliciously tender, cake-like quality. If you want it more toasty, leave it in longer.
It's hard to resist this bread, even under-done.

It’s hard to resist this bread, even under-done.


Try your best not to consume the whole loaf right away. As expected, it makes a wonderful breakfast. Haven’t you always wanted to have beer for breakfast? Breakfast of champions. Enjoy!

Green Tomato and Swiss Chard Gratin

The summer has been much cooler than previous summers, which has been refreshing. Lower energy bills are a perk, and subway and walking commutes are much less sticky. But the lower temperatures mean that my tomatoes have been pokey about ripening. I’m getting impatient! Chances are, as always, as soon as a couple of fruits start ripening, too many will, and I will be scrambling. Before that happens, I stole a few unripened tomatoes from the plant to make this dish.
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This is the first time I have tapped into the green tomatoes so early. There are usually some left over on the plant when the first frost creeps in, and I snatch them before my garden is winterized.

I make fried green tomatoes at least once every year. They keep me in touch with my southern roots. Buttermilk dressings and remoulade sauce make excellent pairings. In this recipe, lightly fried tomatoes make the topping of the gratin. It seems to me more like a crustless quiche of Swiss chard and Gruyère cheese with a green tomato topping.
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I hope you’re not getting sick of me posting about chard. Remember, you can substitute pretty much any hearty green..spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, etc. I just happen to have chard again!
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Green Tomato and Swiss Chard Gratin
Reproduced from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe in The New York Times

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems separated from the leaves
1 lb green tomatoes, sliced a little less than 1/2 inch thick
1/2-3/4 Cup cornmeal for dredging, as needed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 Cup milk
Approx 1/2 Cup or 2-3 ounces Gruyère cheese
, grated

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Prepare your 2-quart baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray or olive oil.

To blanch the swiss chard leaves, fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. While the water heats, dice the swiss chard stems and set aside to be combined with the chopped onion.

Taste the rainbow.

Taste the rainbow.


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Once boiling, drop the chard leaves in the water and blanch for about 1 minute.
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Lift out of the water and transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. Put the leaves in a colander to drain excess water. Chop and set aside.

Slice your green tomatoes. This is a little tedious with the plum tomatoes–ideally you have abundant round beefsteak or big boys. Season the slices with a little salt and pepper, and add a little salt and pepper to the cornmeal as well.
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Dredge the tomatoes in the cornmeal.
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Glug 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the tomatoes for about two minutes each side, until they are just starting to turn golden. A narrow flexible spatula, like the type used for fish, is helpful for turning over the slippery suckers. When done, transfer to a plate and set aside.
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While frying the tomatoes, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add more olive oil to the now-empty pan and pour in the onion and chopped chard stems. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables soften. Add a pinch of salt, some grinds of pepper, and your minced garlic.
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Cook for about a minute, and then finally add the thyme and chopped chard. Stir everything together over medium heat for another minute. Good luck keeping it in the pan as your stir! Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, whisk the 3 eggs with a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour in the milk, stir, and then add the cheese and chard and stir. Pour into your baking dish.
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Layer the tomatoes over the top.
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Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. The gratin is done when the eggs are set and it is beginning to brown.

Could be browner.

Could be browner.


This makes a generous 6 servings, so I will be enjoying it all week!
Chow down!

Chow down!

Cucumber Berry Smoothie

It’s about time I mention that cucumbers are in season again! They are accumulated from personal gardens, farmer’s markets, CSAs, or generous neighbors, and they sit around, patiently waiting to be consumed. You can put them in pitas or add them to salads like this one or this one. But don’t forget about them! I learned the hard way, one rotten-cucumber-pulled-out-of-the-fridge-drawer later, that a local garden fresh cucumber doesn’t necessarily keep as long as the supermarket, shrink-wrapped, hot house type.

This weekend, I had a plan. I would use one whole cucumber for a healthy breakfast smoothie that would help make up for my excessive noshing at parties over the past couple of weeks. (I love summer, but it sure is hard to stay disciplined, isn’ t it?) Joy the Baker provided the inspiration. I threw together the rest.

My plan happened to include consuming the breakfast after sleeping late. However, someone in my neighborhood was violating local sound ordinances (yes, I looked it up) by weed-whacking prior to 10 a.m. (prior to 9:00 a.m., in fact). I’ll hand it to him, it was a beautiful morning to be in the yard. With a cucumber smoothie.
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Cucumber Berry Smoothie
Adapted from Joy the Baker
1 serving

1 small garden cucumber, peeled and de-seeded
a little less than 1 cup frozen blueberries, strawberries or other berries you have available
2/3 Tablespoon of honey, more to taste
2 Tablespoons of plain greek yogurt
1/3 Cup milk
, cow or almond, soy or rice – Joy called for almond milk, which helps add sweetness
a touch of lemon juice, to taste
1/3 Cup orange juice or apple juice, to taste

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Smoothie recipes are the type that are wide open for interpretation and tweaking. Even I rarely follow exactly what is suggested, and I usually pay close attention to recipes. Cucumber gives smoothies a refreshing touch, as well as some texture, and you can combine it with any number of fruits. You’ll have to adjust the sweetness accordingly. I happened to have a little bottle of leftover orange juice in my fridge, and when I tasted the smoothie and felt the honey didn’t add the right amount of sweetness, the juice fit the bill. Strawberries may be a sweeter choice; I used mostly blueberries. When I had pulled out my container of frozen strawberries, there were only two left, somehow! If your berries aren’t frozen, you will want to blend in some ice, to get the mixture nice and cold and refreshing.
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Prep your cucumber: peel and de-seed, and then cut into chunks.
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Add everything to the blender and whir away. Taste and make adjustments as needed.
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Pour into a glass. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your cucumber smoothie.
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Swiss Chard and Prosciutto over Polenta

I’m due for a follow up on the last post, Chard Stem Hummus! What did I make with the de-stemmed leaves? Something unbelievably easy. Swiss Chard and Prosciutto over Polenta.
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You probably already know that the chard leaves lend themselves to a wide range of recipes. The leaves show up in recipes calling for some tomato here, a few dried fruits and nuts there, a touch of vinegar, or perhaps a little cheese. Last week I enjoyed Chard, Caramelized Onion, and Gruyère Crepes; also easy and delicious. I recently finished skimming through the expansive the book Vegetable Literacy, by Deborah Madison. Deborah lists the following as good companions for chard:DSC_9290

  • olive oil, butter, sesame oil
  • quinoa, rice, potatoes, white beans, lentils, chickpeas, pasta
  • garlic, thyme, cilantro, basil, cumin, saffron, nutmeg
  • fresh lemon, aged red wine vinegars
  • eggs, cream, Gruyère, Parmesan cheese, tahini
  • My selected recipe is spot on with several of the recommendations. As for eggs, I’m not one of those people who thinks to reach for eggs as a dinner ingredient (besides in crepe and other batters or dough). However, in this recipe I can easily imagine the soft polenta replaced with soft scrambled eggs, served with some rustic toast on the side.

    Swiss Chard and Prosciutto over Polenta
    Adapted from Cooking Light on myrecipes.com
    Scaled to serve 2

    IngredientsDSC_9287
    a few slices prosciutto or pancetta
    , about 1 ounce, cut or torn into 1/4-inch pieces
    Cooking spray
    1 Tablespoon garlic
    , minced
    3/4 Cup low-sodium chicken broth
    1/2 Tablespoon fresh thyme
    , chopped
    4 Cups Swiss chard leaves, coarsely chopped
    1/8 teaspoon sea salt
    1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    1 Cup prepared polenta
    , cooked from yellow cornmeal by following this recipe (scale down by at least half if feeding only 2 people) or freshly made instant polenta cooked according to package directions
    1/8 cup (.5 ounce) Parmesan cheese, shaved

    Head a large skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray or olive oil. Cook prosciutto about 10 minutes, until crisped. Removed the crispy pieces from pan and set aside.

    I love the flavor added with this step, but it sure makes a mess of the stovetop!

    I love the flavor added with this step, but it sure makes a mess of the stovetop!


    Add garlic and stir into the drippings in the pan for about 30 seconds. Pour in broth and add thyme. Raise the stove temperature to bring the mixture to a boil. Allow to boil for about 5 minutes to reduce by half.

    Add chard, salt, and pepper. Toss to incorporate.
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    Cover the pan. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until chard is tender, about 3 minutes.

    Spoon over polenta and top with prosciutto and Parmesan shavings.
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    Chard Stem Hummus

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    I made a cooked vegetable dish this weekend that I fully intended to share on the blog. It displayed a medley of farm-sourced ingredients and required quite a bit of time to stir and cook. When it finally finished, I sat down and ate it…and didn’t like the flavor. One of the vegetables I incorporated was kohlrabi, and I think it was too dominant in the dish. More importantly, the vegetables were supposed to soften after pan frying for so long, and the kohlrabi didn’t. It stood out. It may have even been burnt–I couldn’t tell. The dish was edible, but it needed a lot of tweaking before sharing. Fortunately, it wasn’t served to guests–only to my husband, who years ago would have run away if I tried serving him a dish with kohlrabi. He didn’t love it either, but he ate it. I’m so proud of how far he has come.

    It got me thinking about the people, young and old, who won’t eat vegetables, and their noble partners who, out of concern for the health and well-being of loved ones, find ways of sneaking in nutrition. Do you know one of those people? Maybe YOU are a sneaker. You probably use up even more of the vegetables you buy than I do, because you plan to throw them into a food processor to make a secret sauce, or soup, or dressing. In my ongoing search for recipes that use the Swiss chard stems, I found this recipe for a chickpea, tahini, and yogurt dip with hidden Swiss chard stalks. Last summer I pickled some stems, which was great for preserving, but I rarely reached for them in the fridge. When I tried this grilled Swiss chard stem recipe, I didn’t seem to have enough stems to make it substantial…and then some of them even blew off of the grill while they were being cooked! When tasting the hummus recipe I made this Monday, one would never guess it has Swiss chard. What a difference from that weekend vegetable medley! Are there those with the opposite view of a stealthy vegetable cook, who insist that each vegetable be featured prominently and celebrated, who are less than impressed with this approach? Perhaps. But this dip is undeniably delicious, and I do give the Swiss chard stems some of the credit.

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    Chard Stem Hummus
    From Martha Rose Shulman of The New York Times

    4-5 ounces pound Swiss chard stalks, from about 1/2 pound bunch, sliced
    Salt to taste
    2 garlic cloves
    (to taste), peeled
    heaping 3/4 Cup cooked chickpeas (about half a small can), drained and rinsed
    2.5 Tablespoons stirred sesame tahini
    4 Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
    2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    , to taste
    1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted on the stovetop
    1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

    Steam chard stalks over 1 inch water until tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes.
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    Collect the rest of your ingredients.
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    Drain the Swiss chard stems well, about 10 minutes. Add to a food processor along with your chickpeas.
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    Purée, stopping the machine from time to time to scrape down the sides.

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    Using a mortar and pestle, mash garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt until you have a smooth paste. Add to chard stalks and chickpeas. Process until smooth.

    After the first whirring...

    After the first whirring…


    Wipe out the same mortar to grind your toasted cumin seeds.

    Add to processor along with tahini and yogurt and run the machine until smooth once again.

    With machine running, add lemon juice, olive oil and a touch of salt to taste. Test the dip for seasoning, and then transfer to a bowl.

    The final product!

    The final product!


    Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley, for garnish, and serve with crudités, along with some wonderful homemade whole wheat pitas.
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    Stay tuned for what I made with the leaves this time!
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