Friday, November 17, 2017

Fall Spiced Pecans

Last Year's Post:  Whipped Goat Cheese and Green Olive Dip
Two Years Ago:    Split Pea Soup

A year ago I published a recipe for spiced pecans that are spicy, sweet and salty - one of my favorites.  Most recipes along that line have cayenne and other spices along with sugar and salt, but not everyone likes heat.  So, this recipe uses all those wonderful fall spices - cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg - instead of cayenne.  The taste is very reminiscent of pumpkin pie spices and would be great for a big gathering where children and adults can both enjoy the nuts.  The original recipe called for the higher amount of sugar given in the recipe, which would result in a definitely sweet nut.  I cut the sugar in half because I don't particularly have a sweet tooth and found the result to be lightly sweet and warmly spiced.

The typical way to use spiced nuts is for an appetizer or for a gift, but as I snacked on these nuts they also seemed very suited as a garnish for a number of other dishes:
  • chopped and sprinkled on roasted or mashed sweet potatoes
  • on top of roasted squash
  • sprinkled on an ice cream sundae with buttered rum sauce or butterscotch sauce
  • chopped up in wild rice
  • sprinkled over pumpkin pie 
You get the idea.

Fall Spiced Pecans
Makes 3 cups

Note: Using the lesser amount of sugar results in slightly sweet nuts; if you want them sweeter, use the higher amount.

1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
3 cups pecan halves
¼ cup - ½ cup white sugar (see note)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 250d.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg white with the water until foamy.  Add the pecans and stir well.  Transfer the nuts to a strainer and shake, then let drain at least 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse and wipe out the bowl, then add the sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and mix well.  Add the nuts back to the bowl and stir until all the spices have evenly coated the nuts and none are left in the bottom of the bowl. 

Spread the nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake at 250d for 40 minutes, stirring once at 20 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 200d and baking 20-30 minutes longer until dry, watching to make sure the nuts don’t get too dark.

Remove the foil from the baking sheet and let the nuts cool, then loosen any that are stuck to the foil.  Store in an airtight container or freeze.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Jerusalem Salad

Last Year's Post: Lemony Green Beans with Toasted Almonds
Two Years Ago:  Dutch Baby

The reason I'm posting this particular recipe now is because Thanksgiving is coming up, which means one thing: leftover turkey.  Serving this salad in the days following Thanksgiving will accomplish several things, all good - it's a dramatic departure in taste from what you'll have been eating, it's very light and healthy, and it's very easy to make.  Since it's served at room temperature, it's also very accommodating for a house full of guests.  And if some of them happen to be vegetarians (or you are), this salad is excellent with tofu in place of turkey, or without either one because it has plenty of fiber and protein already.  It would be fun to set out a big bowl of each of the ingredients and let everyone make their own salad, taking as much or as little of each as they want.

I call this recipe Jerusalem Salad because I found its inspiration in a recipe from the cookbook "Jerusalem" by the famed chef Yotam Ottolenghi.  I'm a big fan of his Middle Eastern style of cooking and the flavors and textures of that cuisine.  The original recipe was for the vegetable salad and the spiced chickpeas; I added the rest of the ingredients to make it an entree salad.  But the vegetable salad and the chickpeas are the stars.  The vegetable salad isn't just tomatoes and cucumbers and onion, but adds radishes and red peppers for additional crunch and flavor.  It's delicious on its own.

The chickpeas are the exotic taste in the salad due to the spice mix of cardamom, cumin and allspice.  I toned down the amount of spice slightly from the original recipe solely due to personal preference.  My suggestion is to toss the chickpeas in the spice mix as written and then taste one before putting them in the skillet, adding more of one or all spices to your taste as desired.

The key to success for salads is to have a variety of textures, colors and flavors so I added pistachios for crunch, quinoa for nuttiness, and yogurt for creaminess.  Sumac is a fun garnish for the yogurt because it adds a little color and has a slightly sharp taste, but paprika would be a good substitute.  Or just don't worry about a garnish.  I'm aware that I worry more about garnishes than most people, although I'm not completely sure what that says about me.

Split, toasted pitas broken into large pieces are excellent served on the side.

Jerusalem Salad
Serves 4

Note: this salad is excellent served with toasted pita on the side.

For the dressing:
5 tablespoons olive oil
Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons juice
1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper

For the spiced chickpeas:
1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or the equivalent amount of dried chickpeas, cooked)
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the salad:
½ English cucumber
2 cups cherry tomatoes
4-6 radishes, trimmed
1 red pepper, seeded and ribs removed
½ red onion
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 cups cooked couscous or quinoa
8 large leaves of Bibb or butter lettuce
½ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked shredded turkey or chicken, optional, or can use tofu instead
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Ground sumac or paprika for garnish, optional

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small jar with a lid and shake vigorously.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

To make the spiced chickpeas, put the spices in a shallow bowl and mix well.  Add the drained chickpeas and stir to coat evenly.  Heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet and toast the chickpeas in a single layer for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking (you may have to do 2 batches).  Set aside.

To make the vegetable salad, chop the cucumber, tomatoes, radishes, red pepper and red onion into bite-sized pieces.   Toss together with the cilantro and parsley.

To plate the salad, place 2 lettuce leaves on each of 4 plates.  Top with optional turkey, spiced chickpeas, vegetable salad, couscous or quinoa, and pistachios.  Add a dollop of yogurt to each plate and garnish with sumac or paprika, optional.  Drizzle with dressing and serve.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Last Year's Post: White Chicken Chili
Two Years Ago:   Baked Potatoes with Broccoli Cheese Sauce

I used to actively dislike Brussels sprouts until I tried this recipe which was a total revelation.  For some reason, roasting them until tender gives them an entirely different flavor.  They're so good you'll want immediately start popping them in your mouth like a snack, which is why I like to serve them with a little crunchy salt on top as an appetizer with drinks.  Of course, they're a perfect side dish to any meal and a great addition to a holiday table but they're so good you really need to eat them more often than just at holidays.

Try to get the smallest Brussels sprouts you can find, because they're easier to eat and more tender.  Plus they're cute.  I had to go to three different stores to find these because the big box grocers had giant, unappealing sprouts. I finally found these cute fresh ones at guess where, my local Sprouts store.  :-)

If you think you don't like Brussels sprouts, try them this way to see what you think.  And if you like Brussels sprouts already, you'll love this.  They even smell really good when they're in the oven.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 6

1 ½ pounds small Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Coarse salt for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 400d.

Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves.  Mix in a bowl with olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Spread them out in a sheet pan and roast for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and browned on the outside and tender on the inside.  Sprinkle with coarse salt (or more regular salt) and serve immediately.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Halibut Nicoise

Last Year's Post:  Halibut with Cucumbers and Ginger
Two Years Ago:   Chicken Schnitzel Sandwiches

I sometimes get inspiration for a recipe when I see a new and interesting fruit or vegetable at the store.  I might not immediately know what to do with it, but it gets filed away for future reference.  In this case, I noticed a bag of tiny multi-colored potatoes at Whole Foods that just begged to be part of a salad.  So, when I came across this recipe for Halibut Nicoise I knew exactly where to buy the potatoes.

This is a new and sophisticated take on the typical Nicoise salad that's not really a salad at all, but a warmer and more substantial dish.  Beautiful baby vegetables surround a warm, meaty halibut fillet for a great fall or winter dinner.  It's definitely a restaurant-quality dish in terms of presentation and taste which makes sense because it comes from Lost Kitchen restaurant in Maine.  And I need to warn you, it's also a fair amount of work and will probably trash your cook top when the oil starts spattering.  But it's definitely worth it.  Just don't try it on a weeknight when you're tired and rushed - a weekend is much better where you can prepare the various ingredients (eggs, beans, potatoes) throughout the day to lessen the workload right before you eat.

The halibut cooking process is classic restaurant style - sear the skin side until it releases, flip and add butter to the pan, then put it in the oven until done,  basting with butter along the way.  Finished with an olive/garlic/anchovy garnish,  it's one of the best-tasting pieces of halibut I've had.  Ah, butter.  Of course, you could substitute sea bass, salmon or tuna for the halibut if that's what looks good at the seafood counter or suits your taste.

Halibut Nicoise
Serves 4

2 eggs
Salt, as needed
½ lb tiny green beans (haricots verts), trimmed
1 lb baby potatoes, any color
½ cup mixed kalamata and green olives, pitted and finely chopped
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Ground black pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 halibut fillets, 5-6 ounces each
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 head bibb or leaf lettuce, leaves washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 lemon, quartered

Hard boil the eggs:  heat a saucepan of water to a boil, then gently lower the eggs into the water.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 11 minutes.  While the eggs cook, prepare an ice bath (ice and water) in a medium bowl.  After 11 minutes, remove the eggs and place in the ice bath for 15 minutes.  Drain and remove the shell under cool running water.  Place in the refrigerator.

In a small bowl, mix olives, anchovy and garlic, and set aside.

To cook the beans and potatoes, fill a large pot with water, season generously with salt, and bring to a boil.  In the sink, prepare another ice bath.  Add the green beans to the pot and cook for 1 minute, then scoop out with a slotted spoon and place in the ice bath.  Add the potatoes to the same pot of hot water and simmer for 12 – 15 minutes until fork tender.  Drain and set aside until cool.  When cool, cut the potatoes in halves or quarters depending on size.  Remove the beans from the ice water and pat dry.

In a large bowl, mix shallots and rice wine vinegar, and let stand for 20 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and a few turns of ground black pepper.  Add the green beans and toss to coat, the remove to a separate bowl.  Add the potatoes and tomatoes to the remaining dressing and toss to coat.  Season the beans, potatoes and tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 425d.

Divide the lettuce between 4 plates.  Slice the eggs and divide between the plates, then add the beans, potatoes and tomatoes around the sides (leaving a spot in the middle for the halibut).

Heat a large ovenproof skillet, ideally cast iron, over medium-high heat.  Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Pat the halibut dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.  Add the fillets to the hot pan skin-side down and let sear until they release easily from the pan, 2-3 minutes.  Flip fillets, add butter to pan and transfer to the oven.  After 2 minutes, baste fish with melted butter, then return to oven until just cooked through, 2-3 minutes more.

Place a fillet in the middle of each plate and drizzle with any leftover pan juices.  Spoon the olive-anchovy mixture over each fillet, garnish with lemon quarters, and serve.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Winter Squash Agrodolce

Last Year's Post:  Mahogany Chicken with Smoky Lime Sweet Potatoes
Two Years Ago:   Grain Bowls with Halloumi Cheese

"Agrodolce" is an Italian term for sweet and sour, a classic sauce in many cuisines.  It's often used for vegetables and fish, and is perfect for an unusual twist on your typical baked fall squash dish.  You can use any winter squash as long as you can peel it which pretty much eliminates acorn squash.  (I guess you could cut an acorn squash in half and get rid of the seeds, then cut and bake slices without peeling.  That would work just fine as long as your guests are up for cutting the peels off.) 

Butternut squash works well.  I used a kabocha squash just because I hadn't tried one before, and found it difficult to peel.  I finally ended up cutting it in half and cleaning out the seeds, then cutting the slices and peeling each individual slice with a small knife.  Good thing The Lawyer was around to help.  Next time I'll use a butternut.

This would make a great side dish with a roast pork or chicken, and of course would be an elegant addition to a holiday table.  I also like it very much as part of a vegetarian winter salad with fresh greens, toasted pecans, chopped apple and some crumbled blue cheese.

Winter Squash Agrodolce
Yield: 4-6 servings

1 medium butternut or kabocha squash, peeled, seeds removed, cut into 1" wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons golden raisins, chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place squash on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil; season with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat evenly. Roast, turning once until golden brown and tender, 30–35 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring vinegar, honey, raisins, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 8–10 minutes.

Brush half of warm agrodolce over warm squash. Transfer to a platter.  Just before serving, spoon the remaining agrodolce over the squash.

Do ahead
Dish can be made 3 hours ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mini Croutons

Last Year's Post:  Tuscan Barley Soup
Two Years Ago:    Chicken Limone Pasta

I love how croutons can give a nice crunch to salads and soups, but I don't love store-bought croutons in a box.  They're huge, hard as a rock, and way over-seasoned to compensate for the fact that they have no taste.  Other than that, they're perfect.

My solution is to make very small croutons, which you can scatter over the top of your salad for nice little crunchy bits with every bite.  By contrast, store-bought croutons on a salad need to be approached with care and planning or you'll end up at the dentist since they're the approximate size and consistency of a matchbox car.  Small croutons are also perfect as a garnish for soups and even for pastas such as spaghetti with pesto or baked pasta dishes.  Crush some of the croutons in a small bowl with the back of a spoon and sprinkle over vegetables such as green beans or roasted Brussels sprouts for a little extra crunch.

You can use any type of bread for this recipe, and a few leftover slices from a loaf are just perfect.  A dark rye might be a nice color contrast to potato or cauliflower soup, for example.  It helps if the bread is thinly sliced to start since you'll be cutting it into tiny cubes.  I would advise against trying to use a food processor because in my experience they produce uneven results - some big pieces, some small - unless you grind the bread all the way down to crumbs.

Another advantage to making your own croutons is that you can add whatever seasonings you like.  It's fun to experiment with Italian seasonings, garlic salt, french seasonings, or even some chili powder to spice up some croutons for something like beer cheese soup.  I listed garlic salt because it's a good basic flavor that will go with a lot of things but feel free to use whatever you want.

I bake croutons rather than using a fry pan to toast them because I think it's easier to control the amount of browning and the oven produces more uniform results.  Just be sure to watch them closely near the end because they brown pretty fast when they're small.

Mini Croutons
Makes 2 cups

2 cups bread, preferably thin-sliced, cut into 1/3” cubes (approximate)
¼ teaspoon garlic salt (or other seasonings)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350d.

Place the bread into a bowl and add the garlic salt or other seasonings.  Toss to combine.  Slowly add the olive oil in a drizzle while stirring, one tablespoon at a time, until all the croutons are evenly coated.  Taste and adjust seasonings if  needed.

Spread the croutons in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Place on the middle rack of the oven for 5 minutes, then stir and return to the oven for an additional 5-8 minutes until golden brown.  Remove and let cool completely.  If desired, blot on paper towels before storing in an airtight container.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Broccolini Fried Rice

Last Year's Post:  Apple Strudel
Two Years Ago:    Smoked Salmon Cakes

I left any mention of meat out of the title of this recipe because you can make it with chicken, or any cooked leftover pork or steak, or go vegetarian with tofu or even just cashews.   It's very versatile.  The base recipe has rice, of course, with broccolini, eggs, snow peas, edamame and/or green peas and a very simple but flavorful sauce made from soy sauce, orange zest and orange juice.

Stir fries and fried rice are two different things.  Stir fries require that all the prep work is done in advance and then the actual cooking takes places very fast and at very high heat.  Fried rice also requires advance prep work and some fast cooking at the beginning.  But when the rice is added in the middle of the process, you press it down into the pan and then step back and leave it alone for a few minutes to crisp on the bottom.  After it's crisp, everything speeds up again.  It's important to the final texture of the dish not to rush the rice-crisping step, and it's also very important to use day-old rice because it dries out overnight and won't clump up plus it will crisp up and brown much better.

The prep work here takes 15-20 minutes, but the actual cooking goes fast so this is a good (and healthy) weeknight meal assuming you made the rice the day before.  I particularly like it served with a little chili oil mixed in for some heat, but others may prefer it with soy sauce for a milder dish.  Serve both at the table so everyone can choose for themselves.

Broccolini Fried Rice
4 servings

Cook’s Notes
If using meat that is already cooked or tofu or cashews, sauté the broccolini in the first step as listed (without the meat) and add the cooked meat with the snow peas, edamame and liquids at the end.
If you are preparing rice especially for this dish, you'll need to cook about 1 cup raw rice. Rinse the rice first to remove some of the starch so it's less sticky when it comes time to fry. Spread the cooked rice out on a rimmed baking sheet or plate to cool so the steam can evaporate, then transfer to a resealable container and chill.

1/4 cup vegetable oil, dividedEasy Fried Rice with Chicken and Broccolini Recipe / Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Rhoda Boone
4 green onions, sliced on the bias, divided
1 pound boneless skinless chicken, cut into 1/2" slices (OR cooked chicken, pork, beef, tofu or cashews)
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely grated or pressed
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
1 bunch broccolini (about 6 ounces), ends trimmed, sliced in half lengthwise and cut into 2” pieces
4 cups cooked white rice (preferably day-old, long-or medium-grain)
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 cup snow peas, cut in half on a diagonal
1/2 cup frozen edamame or green peas
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
Zest of ½ orange
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (from about 1/2 orange)
Chili oil and soy sauce for the table

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet or wok over high. Reserve about 2 tablespoons sliced green onions; add remaining onions to oil and cook, tossing occasionally, about 1 minute. Add chicken, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and ginger, then add broccolini and toss until incorporated. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through and broccolini is tender, 2–3 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl.

Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in skillet over high. Add rice and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, toss to coat, then press rice into a single layer, and cook, undisturbed, until crisped on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes. Lift a corner of the rice to see if it’s starting to turn a light golden color; if not, let it cook for a minute and check again.  When the bottom of the rice is lightly golden and crisp, stir and move it to one-half of skillet and add eggs to other half. Cook, stirring gently to form curds, until soft set and just cooked through, about 1 minute, then fold into rice.

Fold in snow peas, edamame, soy sauce, and orange juice. (This is where you should add cooked meat, tofu or cashews.) Cook, tossing, until warmed through, about 1-2 minutes. Add broccolini mixture and toss to combine. Divide among plates, then top with reserved scallions. Serve with chili oil and soy sauce at the table.