Week One Down

Whew.  This was my first week back at work with kids and all.  I had forgotten just how hard it is to get everyone out of the house on time!  It meant that I was throwing things together for dinner- I did my planning and all but, somehow, I was just more exhausted at the end of the day.  I’ll put it this way, if I were single and without children, it would have been a cold cereal and toast for dinner kind of week.

But, tonight.  Well, it’s Friday which is Shabbat and after my years of eating at my grandmother’s table on Friday nights as well as my time in Israel, it’s kind of ingrained in me that you eat a real meal on Friday night.  So I gathered my strength and cooked.

I had recently (Ok, a few weeks ago) tried a maple-soy glazed chicken recipe from Cooking Light.  It was really good.  I had some chicken thighs to use up as well as a bunch of vegetable odds and ends.  Rooting around in the pantry, I found some udon noodles.  Ah, a dish was born.

Maple-Soy Chicken and Vegetable Noodles

(Adapted- ever so slightly- from Cooking Light)

Ingredients

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 scant cup lemon juice

2-3 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon peeled, grated (fresh) ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

8 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts if you prefer, though you’d probably only need 2-3 of them)

Whatever vegetables you can find.  I used broccoli, onion, carrot, green beans and mushrooms.  Garlic would be nice, as would celery, bok choy, peppers, etc.

1 package udon noodles

Directions

In a bowl, mix together the syrup, soy, lemon juice, ginger, and sesame oil.  Add the chicken, turning it a few times to ensure that it gets coated and is mostly submerged in the marinade.  You could also use a zip-lock bag.  Cooking Light says to let it marinate an hour but I did it for less.

Raw chicken really isn’t that pretty, huh?

Set a big pot of water on to boil.  Salt it liberally.  Once it’s boiling, add your udon noodles (or spaghetti or whatever you want) and cook for 8-10 minutes or until tender but not mushy.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, chop your veggies.  I threw the broccoli, green beans and carrots into a steamer basket so that I could partially cook them before I put them in with the rest.  I steamed them in a pot of boiling water for about 2-3 minutes or until they were tender but still crisp, not mushy.

The onions and mushrooms I did not steam.   Instead I left them by themselves to cook in the wok.

*Once I was done with all the vegetable prep,  I cut up my chicken into somewhat more bite-sized pieces.  I tossed the pieces quickly in cornstarch which is a totally optional and somewhat unnecessary step.   Don’t dump the marinade!  Put it in a saucepan and let it boil for several minutes, so as to kill off any yucky leftover from the raw chicken.

I cooked the chicken in the wok, then took it out.  I added the onions and mushrooms to the wok and once they had softened, I added the crisp-tender veggies.  I threw the chicken back in, along with the boiled marinade and the udon noodles.  I tossed it all together and let it heat up.

It was quite delicious, if I do say so myself.  Both my mom and my husband agreed.  The toddler was reserving judgement but did enjoy the plain udon noodles.  Go figure.

* The lack of photos from this point on is due to a cranky toddler, screaming from hunger baby and underfoot dog and cat.  Sometimes that’s my life.

Something To Tide You Over

Hello all.  There’s a pun there in the title.  See if you can find it by the end of the post.

I have been MIA, I know.  There have been some, er, events in my life over the last few weeks (some good, some terrible) that have kept me from posting.  I’m working on a post now about one of them which I hope to have for you next week.  Right now, I want to give you a recipe that comes from the other coast.  As the result of one event, I spent some time in Seattle last week.  Our first night there, my cousin and her husband made us the most delicious salmon I have ever had.  Ever.  It’s the right season, we were in the right place and they prepared it just the right way.  Even my picky eater daughter ate it.

Plus, it counts as a family recipe since it comes from my wonderful cousin and her wonderful husband.  They’re a nice blend of cultures- she’s Irish-Jewish and he’s Chinese-American.  Talk about yummy food.

Ingredients

Salmon, the best you can find!

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

2-3 tablespoons of maple syrup or brown sugar

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Special Equipment:  cedar plank (but if you don’t have one, don’t worry)

Directions

If you have a cedar plank, use it.  Otherwise, layer some tin foil and crimp the edges to that there’s a lip.  Place it on a sheet pan and then place the fish on it.  Pour the oil over the fish and sort of smear it around with your fingers. Do the same with the syrup.  Sprinkle the garlic over and then salt and pepper.

Heat your grill on high.  I suppose you could do this in the oven as well.  Once it’s good and hot, place the fish on the foil on the grill.  Turn your heat down to medium or so.  Grill for about ten minutes.  Try not to scarf it all down at once.

What’s that?  What should you serve with it?  Oh, ok.

I was in a seafood mood so I served mine with shrimp.  The best, easiest way to make shrimp is from Ina Garten.  I used frozen shrimp (kind of a crime given how close to the ocean I am but so be it) which I defrosted by running them under cool water.

Once they were defrosted, I peeled off the shells and then put them on a sheet pan.  I tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper just to coat them.  Then I roasted them for 5-6 minutes at 400 degrees.

I’m sorry, say that again?  Oh, you want a vegetable, too?  Fine.  Be that way.  I sautéed some minced garlic in olive oil and then added some baby spinach I had washed and dried.  Or, rather, my kitchen sous chef had dried.


In the end, this was my dinner and it was so. good.  The salmon was sweet and savory.  The shrimp were seasoned just right so that their sweetness came through and the spinach was the right counterpoint to all the rich, fishy flavor.  In fact, I kind of want this very meal again. Right now.

This little guy wanted some too but he can’t have any yet.  He’s just starting cereal, though, and quite enjoys it.

So, did you catch the pun?  Something to tide you over???  Ocean, seafood, tides….

I know, I know.  Sorry.

Grandma’s Potatoes

When I emailed my family and friends a few weeks ago, asking them for their food and fond memories of my grandmother, almost all of them mentioned these potatoes.  Which is funny because, while I remember these potatoes fondly, I don’t remember them being as amazing as everyone else does.  It was one of Grandma’s standby sides, however, and they are pretty easy.  I’m not sure what made them so special except that maybe it was Grandma making them.

Because as I’ve said, it was something about Grandma.  She was able to make everyone feel welcome, comfortable and a part of the family.  When you sat at her table you felt like you were one of the gang, regardless of which particular gang was present.

Which reminds me of a story via my Uncle P.  He had some friends from Canada who were, shall we say, rough. One of them was very big and very tough and very scary-looking.  While I can’t remember his name it was something like “Bubba” or “Killer”.  For the sake of this story, we will call him Killer.  Anyway, P. was living at home but was away for a few days and Killer came to visit.

My grandmother opened the door and was faced with a large, tall, gruff, bearded, tattooed man.  He asked for P. and my grandmother replied that he wasn’t there but Killer should come in and wait for him.  She showed him into the den and brought him food and asked what kind of beer he wanted.  Killer tried to say that he’d just come back later but my grandmother, all five feet of her, insisted.  Two days later, my uncle came home and found Killer, still in the den, still eating and drinking beer.  He asked him why he hadn’t left and Killer replied, “I would have but I was afraid of your mother!” All five feet of her.

That was Grandma- small, powerful and fiercely loving.  She made everyone feel welcome regardless of the color of your skin, the language on your lips or your affiliations, religious, political or otherwise.

So in honor of that, I give you grandma’s unforgettable potatoes.  For all I know, she served them to Killer.

Ingredients

small red (new) potatoes, scrubbed and eyes removed

1 onion, thinly chopped

mushrooms, sliced (optional)

salt, pepper, dill (dried or fresh, chopped, about a teaspoon, also optional- I personally hate dill)

Oil- maybe a tablespoon or two- olive or canola would do

Directions

Keep in mind that I’m making these from memory as I couldn’t find a written recipe.

Wash and clean your potatoes.  (Funny tip, the Hippo uses her fingernails to get all the eyes out. Who knew?)

Put them in a pot and cover them with water.  Put it over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Let them boil until they are soft but not mushy.  You should be able to put a fork in easily but without them falling apart.  On my induction burner it took about ten minutes.  It may take longer on a gas/electric range.

Meanwhile, chop your onion.

And your mushrooms.

Heat a large, shallow pan over medium high heat.  I use a wok.  Grandma also used a wok.  If you don’t have a wok, then I think a large, shallow pan will do. Add the onions and mushrooms.

 

Let them cook until they start to brown.

When your potatoes are ready, take them out of the water and let them cool.  Slice them in half.

Throw them into the wok (or pan) with the onions and mushrooms.  Stir frequently but let them get brown and crispy on the outside.

At this point, season the potatoes with salt, pepper and dill, if you’re using it.  Serve alongside whatever you like.

These potatoes are like the perfect mix of crispy and soft. The outside has a slight crunch and the inside is soft and smooth.  The onions and mushrooms add a nice flavor and texture to go along with the creamy potatoes.  If you like dill, it adds a nice freshness to the dish.  Really, you can’t go wrong.

Tricky Food

It’s funny how the things you thought you’d never be/do eventually come to pass.  I had all these high-minded philosophies about what I would do when *I* had children.  No tv, no desserts, no hiding food in other food (there’s a whole industry based on this with books like this one). We’d have regular bedtimes, along with routines, and our children would be able to fall asleep on their own, in their own beds, in their own rooms.  They would eat what we were eating- no making separate dinners for them.

Riiiiiiight.

Not a single one of those things has come to pass.  G. had a bit of ice cream at about five months (thanks OGWO), she regularly watches Curious George on tv and she refuses vegetables.  M. is sleeping in our bed and G. needs one of us to help her fall asleep.

On the other hand, both of my children are happy, content and healthy.  So maybe those things I thought were so key aren’t that important.

Which brings us to this recipe.  In an attempt to get some vegetables into her, I took the hippo’s suggestion and made vegetable pancakes.  Very similar to potato pancakes, which she will eat.  While they were not a rousing success, she did eat one.  And I thought they were good.

Tricky Veggie Pancakes

Ingredients

2 small carrots

1 small zucchini

1 small summer squash

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

3-6 tablespoons flour

Directions

Grate your veggies.  I do this in the cuisinart because I am lazy.  Throw them in a bowl and add the eggs, mixing well.  Add the baking powder and about half of the flour.  This is a good time to add salt and pepper though I left out the salt because they were for G.  Mix well.  How much flour you need will depend on how liquidy your batter is. 

Heat some oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Drop by tablespoonfuls into the oil and fry on each side until golden brown and crispy.

Serve with applesauce, sour cream or greek yogurt.

I liked greek yogurt with mine.

What I Eat When I’m Alone

See, the title sort of evokes something here, no?  Images of either stupidly easy meals (cold cereal, scrambled eggs, toast) or richly decadent and so bad for you (a pint of ice cream, pork belly) come to mind.  I will tell you, prior to having children, these images would have been somewhat spot on.  Now, it’s different.

Mainly because I am never, ever alone.  Ever.

Which, on the whole, is not bad.  In the two plus years of having my daughter (and now, my son), I have only seriously considered running away three times.  Once was this morning, when everyone (including me) was crying.  The beauty of life, though, is that time fixes everything.  Five minutes after plotting my escape, my toddler was happily playing with her playdough and the baby was snuggled in his swing, drifting off to sleep.

At any rate, these days, “alone” really means, I’ve fed the toddler and the husband is at work.  The baby eats what I eat, so to speak.  Last night, I opened the fridge and decided I was tired of snacking on Chickasauras Rex and pasta.  I reviewed the veggies I had to use up and realized I was craving something fresh and simple.  I threw it all together and came up with this, served over multi-colored couscous.

Just in case you find yourself in a similar position, I thought I’d share my process.

I chopped up garlic, onions and mushrooms and threw them into a pan to brown with a little bit of olive oil.  Medium-ish heat. 

I let that all cook down a bit and then added some halved cherry tomatoes.  I think I tossed in some salt, pepper and a splash of chicken broth (though water or wine would have worked too).  I let that all cook while I heated about a cup of chicken broth in a separate saucepan.

Once the chicken broth was boiling, I added some couscous, salt and pepper.  I covered it and took it off the heat.  After a few minutes, the couscous was ready to go, just needed a little fluff with a fork.

I added some baby spinach to my original pan and let that wilt down.

I threw a little more salt on for seasoning and then dished it up over the couscous.

I have to say, it was perfect.

Ok, back to the two reports left, the two crying children and the two turkeys in my yard.  Sigh.

Leftovers, Passover Style (or, how to build a recipe)

One of the things I most admire about professional chefs is their ability to know what flavors will work well together.  Like on Chopped, for example.  A recent episode featured ground lamb, Stilton cheese, eggplant and birch syrup.  Now, if you gave me those, I’d have an idea that lamb and eggplant might go together since they’re both featured in middle eastern cuisine.  And I know that Stilton is like blue cheese so it’s stinky and powerful.  But birch syrup?  No idea about that one. Put them all together in one cohesive plate?  No way!

But if you’re a professional and/or experienced chef, then you know that the sweetness of the birch syrup (which is apparently like maple but “with more pine and wintergreen notes”, according to Aaron Sanchez) will pair nicely with the savory cheese.  You would also know that ground lamb will make a good meatball, particularly if you cook it in something like red wine in order to keep it moist.  You’d know that eggplant needs to be seasoned just so and that to put it all together you definitely need a starch.

I can not claim to be a professional chef but over the years, I have been able to learn what goes together well, partly from eating at restaurants, partly from reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows and partly from experimenting.  I have a sense of how to build a sauce, how to add flavor, how to fix mistakes (too much salt?  add a potato to absorb it) and how to re-purpose leftovers.  Cooked chicken goes well into soup, casseroles, tossed with pasta or with salad.  Lemon, garlic and rosemary are good flavors for chicken.  Apple cider and apple cider vinegar go well with pork.  Bacon makes everything better.

As a result, when I needed to use up leftovers from the big Passover meal, I was able to combine them in a way that made sense, was delicious and was pretty healthy, as well.  I’ll try to talk you through my thought process so you can see how I, a home cook, made it happen.

I had lots of peppers left over since I had intended to make a salad but didn’t.  (Hippo, I am so sorry but this post will have peppers as a main ingredient (and some zucchini as well) and I know how you feel about those.  You could always use cabbage leaves or Portobellos or another vessel.)

I also had leftover roasted balsamic veggies, cooked chicken and matzo. When I lived in Israel, we’d often make stuffed peppers with rice and vegetables.  I’ve also made and have eaten stuffed cabbage as well so I knew that I could chop the chicken and veggies and use those as part of the stuffing.  Crumbled matzo could be substituted for the starch element (usually rice).  I would just need some sort of binder like cheese or egg, to help hold the mixture together.  I peeked into the fridge and, lo and behold, I had some leftover ricotta that needed to be used. I also found some parmesan cheese that could be melted on top.

Thus, a dish was born.

I give you stuffed peppers, passover style.

Stuffed Peppers

Bell peppers (one or two for each person, depends on how hungry you are)

Some sort of protein, cooked: chicken, pork, beef

Some sort of vegetable mixture: mine was a mix of roasted onions, summer squash, tomatoes, garlic and zucchini.

Some sort of starch: rice or couscous would be good; for passover I used matzo

Some sort of binder: creamy cheese like ricotta or an egg or two

Salt, Pepper, other spices to taste, maybe a little cheese for the top

Directions:

Wash your peppers and cut off the tops.  Scrape out the seeds and ribs.

I sliced just a little bit off the bottom so that they’d stand up but you must be careful not to slice so much that you make a hole- your filling will leak out if you do.

Place them into a steamer basket and steam them over boiling water for a few minutes, just until they start to soften a little.  Mine took maybe 5-8 minutes.  They’ll be going into the oven later so don’t worry about actually cooking them.

Meanwhile, chop your vegetables and your protein into small (minced even!) pieces.

Veggies roasted but not yet chopped

In a bowl, mix the veggies, protein and starch (in this case, chopped chicken, crumbled matzo and chopped roasted veggies).

Add your binder- eggs and/or cheese- and mix well. I used ricotta and an egg.

Season with salt and pepper and whatever else you like (go italian with oregano and basil or try something more middle eastern like cumin and turmeric).  Place your peppers in a baking pan and set your oven to 375.

Stuff each pepper with the mixture, topping with cheese if you so desire (I almost always desire cheese).

Bake at 375 until heated through and the cheese on top is melted and lovely.  About 15 minutes for me.

 

Christmas Eve 2011

What’s your Christmas Eve tradition?  Until a few years ago, mine was to have dinner with a dear friend and her family.  It started when I was in the 7th grade and continued, almost unbroken, until maybe two or three years ago.  The dinner kept expanding and incorporating new people (girlfriends, boyfriends, adopted siblings, parents) and eventually it was several tables long and, I imagine, quite the event to prepare. It was a true Italian feast- homemade pasta and sauce (tomato and pesto), shrimp and scallops and wonderful desserts. It was a lovely tradition while it lasted and I will always remember it fondly.

Without her house to go to, I was sort of lost on Christmas Eve.  I honestly can’t remember what we’ve done for the last few years.  This year I decided perhaps we needed to start a new tradition- dinner together.  Now, during the workweek, we sometimes have dinner together.  By which I mean, we try, but as my husband went back to school a few years ago his schedule is, um…. different.  On the nights he doesn’t have class or isn’t working, we all sit together for dinner.  There are plenty of nights where this doesn’t happen but we try.

For Christmas Eve, we decided that I’d feed the toddler at her regular time (which is when we usually eat, one step removed from the early bird special time!) and then after she went to bed, he and I would sit down for a somewhat elegant meal without her.  Which may be the first time we’ve done that.  Ever.

What to make?  Mac and Cheese, of course, though not the cr$%^p from the box that he favors.  And not the baked kind, which he does not love.  Instead, I made this Alton Brown version which is quite similar (though far less chemical-tasting) to this from the box.  I also made potatoes with cheese which were supposed to be all fancy-like but ended up flat and frisbee-like.  More on that in a minute.  For the main dish, I made beef wellington which is something we had at our wedding and which, four years later, my husband still talks about while getting all misty-eyed.

Ok, so the potatoes first- get the semi-failure out of the way first, right?  I made mashed potatoes and added a little bit of flour and egg to stiffen them up (I would have used potato starch but I didn’t have any).  I also added a fair amount of cheddar cheese (shredded).  Then I dumped it into a ziplock with the tip cut off and a pastry tip inserted.

Sad, deflated "pastry" bag

I piped it out onto parchment and threw it into the oven.

I'm aware that they look like piles of doo-doo. This was my first clue that something was amiss.

I was going for something like this.  My mistake, I think, was too loose a mixture and not broiling right away- I wasn’t paying attention and put them in on bake, which allowed them to do this.

Now, they were tasty- sort of a crunchy, cheesy crust and a smooth creamy interior.  But they were not pretty.  Oh well.  Experimental cooking at its best, I suppose.

On to the beef wellington.  A word about my version- it’s an amalgamation of a bunch of different recipes.  It never comes out the same way twice.  And I definitely can end up with some soggy bottom dough (which happened this time- it was not my best cooking day).  If you are looking for the perfect beef wellington, I suggest going to cooks illustrated as they have quite an extensive recipe with many steps and directions and I have no doubt that theirs comes out perfectly.  If you want something a bit more user-friendly and you don’t mind slightly soggy bottom dough, go with mine.

Beef Wellington

3 lbs beef tenderloin (full confession, I can almost never find this and tend to just use good steak)

1 package puff pastry, defrosted (I use Dufour brand and it’s great)

8-10 cremini mushrooms, washed, stemmed and quartered (fascinating bit on mushrooms here)

olive oil, butter

salt, pepper

Splash of sherry or marsala wine (optional)

1 egg, splash of water

Directions:

Season your beef with salt and pepper.

No tenderloin this time, I used I think boneless ribeye. Maybe? I can't remember.

Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium to high heat.  When hot, add the beef and sear it on all sides. You do not want it to cook through.

Set it aside to rest and cool.  CI will have you wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it for four  to twenty four hours (this is after you already let the tenderloin sit over a rack/pan in the fridge for something like 24-48 hours.  Too many steps for me!).  I simply wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it chill it the fridge while I did other stuff- about an hour or so.

Don’t wipe out your pan, just take it off the heat and set  aside while you prep your mushrooms.

Wash and remove the stems.  Cut any large ones into quarters.  Add them to your food processor and process until very fine.

In the skillet that has the oil and leftover beef bits, add about a pat of butter and heat over medium heat.

Once the butter is melted, add the finely chopped mushrooms.

Let them cook over medium heat until all the liquid is released.  They may start to stick to the bottom of the pan and when they do, I add a splash of sherry or marsala wine to help degalze the pan and add some extra flavor.  I add a pinch of salt and pepper as well. Again, cook until all the liquid has evaporated.

Set them aside to cool.  Pull out your puff pastry and lightly flour the surface you’ll use to roll it out.  Place the sheet on the floured area and lightly flour the top.

Roll it out, gently, until it is large enough to cover your meat (heh-heh, that sounded dirty.  Yes, I’m a 12 year old boy.).  Keep moving it around so that it doesn’t stick.  I lift mine and flip it every few rolls.  Since I had two steaks, I cut mine in half and rolled each half to size.  You’ll need to put it in the fridge after rolling to let it firm up again.  I did this by using the packing it came in to help fold it back up without it sticking.

Let it chill for a bit- this is when I made the potatoes and when I took a few photos of the toddler amusing herself with my baking things.

Ok, now that everything has chilled, set up your assembly line.  You’ll need your mushrooms, some egg wash (1 egg lightly whisked with a bit of water), a pastry brush, a sheet pan with parchment on it, your beef and your pastry dough.

part of my assembly line- not shown, the parchment pan

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.  Lay out your dough on the sheet pan.  Spread the mushrooms on one side (I used half for each steak). You may need to use your fingers. Make sure to leave some space around the edges.

Place your steak on top of the mushrooms.

Brush the egg wash around the edges.

Fold the other half of the pastry dough over and seal the edges.  I’m sure you could do this in an extremely pretty way but I didn’t.

Brush with egg wash.

Repeat with the other steak/dough if you have two.  Put them in the fridge for a bit to let the pastry firm up again.

Bake in the oven until the internal temperature of the beef reaches 113-155 for rare (15 minutes), 120 for medium-rare (20 minutes).  Take them out and let them sit for 10 minutes (to allow the juices in the beef to re-distribute) before slicing. 

Slice and serve.  Yum.

Obviously, the thicker cut of meat you use, the higher your wellington will be.  This worked just fine for us but again, the bottom was a bit soggy.  Traditional recipes also use pate and have an accompanying sauce, usually some sort of red wine-based.  Some recipes use pate and mushrooms on all sides.  For us, this was relatively quick, easy and somewhat outside our usual fare.  It may be the start of a Christmas Eve tradition!

I am NOT the Next Iron Chef

I’ve confessed before and I will confess again to watching some of the competition shows on Food Network.  I tend to agree with the Hippo in her assessment of the current state of food programing on the channel but I maintain a love for a few of the shows.  Currently, the husband and I watch The Next Iron Chef Super Chefs.  Though, we watch it about a week or two behind since we dvr it.  Anyway, we watched one episode recently wherein Geoffrey Zakarin make an egg and avocado dish and I thought, “Well, I can do that.”  So last week I set out to make it.  I sort of understood what he had done by watching but I scoured the internet to find more guidelines.  Find them I did and the resulting avocado dish was made.  I paired it with the delicious arugula, pomegranate and apple salad by Lady Gouda.

The result?  The salad was the hands down winner- plus it was really pretty.  Make that.  The avocado dish?  Not as great- perhaps because we don’t like cooked avocado, perhaps because I couldn’t get it crispy enough, perhaps I’m just not the Next Iron Chef.  No matter.  I’ll give you that recipe anyway.

GZ’s Avocado and Eggs

1-2 avocados

as many egg yolks as you have avocado slices (for me this was between 5 and 6)

cornmeal (for dusting)

paprika, salt, pepper

parmesan cheese, grated

butter/olive oil

Directions:

Start with your avocados. They should be ripe but not overly so since you’re going to slice them.

Slice the avocados in half to remove the pit.  (My grandmother always used to save them to grow them in a glass of water.  It would grow roots and then she’d throw it out. I’m not sure if anyone has ever successfully grown an avocado plant/tree from the saved seed in a water glass, balanced with toothpicks.)  Then slice them in thirds or so, keeping the skin on. You want about half inch to one inch slices- thick enough to stand up to cooking.

Season them on both sides with salt, pepper and paprika.

On the stove over medium heat, melt some butter and olive oil in an ovenproof skillet.  GZ specified a non-stick one but I didn’t see the need for that. Dredge the avocado slices in the cornmeal (both sides) and drop them into the pan. At the same time, preheat your oven to about 350 degrees farenheit.

Let them brown up before you flip them- it took a few minutes on each side for me.  Again, mine didn’t seem crispy enough but that may have been a heat issue.  It may also have been an expectation issue- I’m not sure they were supposed to be crispy.

Meanwhile, separate your eggs.  I actually experimented and made a few with just the yolks and a few with whole eggs.  The husband deemed the just yolks better.  Slide your egg or egg yolk into the hole in each avocado.

Place them in the oven for about three to five minutes, just long enough to cook the whites but leave the yolks runny.  I overcooked mine because since my first pregnancy runny egg yolks gross me out.  It’s the only food aversion that stuck. When they’re done, take them out and sprinkle with the cheese.

See?  Not so pretty, but intriguing, no?

I also made LG’s salad while I was making the avocado dish.  Her recipe is linked above so I won’t repeat it here but I will share how beautiful the pomegranate seeds are:

Like little rubies.

And our finished plates:

Quite elegant, pretty and fancy!  Sadly, again, the avocado dish won’t be making a second appearance.  However, the salad?  That we’ll be having again.  Often.

‘Tis the Season…..

…..of squash!  I’m so excited.  I love squash.  Butternut and Delicata are my two favorite but I do like a nice spaghetti or acorn as well.  Mmmm.  Creamy, rich and still a vegetable!  What could be bad?

As a result, I’m constantly looking for new recipes to go with the squash.  My standbys are soup and risotto.  This weekend I wanted something more.  I’ve had butternut squash lasagna before but wasn’t sure I wanted anything that heavy.  I read this blog on a free-style squash and goat cheese lasagna but I don’t love goat cheese.  So I decided to improvise and make a hybrid of the two.

Hybrid Squash Lasagna

Ingredients

1 butternut squash

1 box no-boil lasagna noodles

1 onion

olive oil

1-2 cups chicken or veg broth

1-2 cups light cream

grated parmesan and/or mozzarella cheese- how much?  up to you- how cheesy do you want this?  I probably used about 1-2 cups combined.

salt, pepper to taste

Directions:

I started by roasting my squash.  I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds and put it face down- skin side up- on a baking sheet with some olive oil, salt and pepper. It roasted at about 425 degrees for maybe 30-40 minutes.  And it filled the house with such a nice, squashy smell.  Mmmm.  I set it aside to let it cool.  Then I peeled it and threw it into the food processor, then into a medium sized pot.  I put it over low heat.

Meanwhile, I sliced up two onions pretty thinly (ok, I’ll admit it, I used the food processor.  I’m so lazy!) and put them in a saute pan with some olive oil over medium-low heat.

I let these sit over medium to low heat for a loooooong time.  Don’t let them brown up or burn but do let them cook down and get all caramelized.  You could help the process along by adding a teaspoon of sugar but there’s really no need- if you have the time, they’ll do their thing.  Cook them until they look like this:

Meanwhile, to the squash on the pot on the stove, whisk in about 1-2 cups of chicken or veg broth and about 1 cup of cream.  Let that all sort of melt and meld together. Season a bit with salt and pepper if necessary.

Once your onions are done, you could throw in a bit of Marsala to deglaze the pan.  I love Marsala and find it worked well with the squash- a sort of sweet and slightly acidic undertone. 

Ok, time to assemble.  Start by putting a bit of the squash sauce on the bottom of your pan.  Top with the lasagna noodles (I had to break mine up a bit to make them fit- It was not the best pan choice) and some of the cheese.

I had some fresh mozzarella to use up but regular would probably be just as fine. Add a layer of your delicious onions.

Cover with more noodles.

Then more squash sauce.

Repeat until you run out of ingredients or room.  Finish with a layer of sauce and some parmesan and mozzarella cheese on top.

Bake at 375 for about 30-50 minutes or until it’s all golden and bubbly around the edges.  Mmmmm.

This was good- rich, creamy and not as dairy-ful as others I’ve had.  A little bit lighter and more squashy, I think because the squash wasn’t diluted with the cream sauce.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some good cream sauce, this was just a nice alternative.

And for the record, it’s taken me five days to write and post this!  Talk about a busy week!  Hopefully with an extra day off this week, I’ll be able to post something else.

 

A Sweet New Year

Honey is one of the main ingredients in traditional Rosh Hashanah food, in order to ensure that the coming year will be sweet.  Carrots in honey (Tzimmes),  honey cake and apples dipped in honey usually grace our table.  I left out the carrots this year as well as the apples and honey.  But I did make the honey cake.

Now, the problem with honey cake is that it is usually dry and somewhat tasteless.  I’ve tried a bunch of different recipes over the years.  Usually it just sits on the table, somewhat neglected as people consume the other desserts.  The Hippo doesn’t even bother with traditional honey cake and instead makes these honey cakes which always look so good.  This year I found a pretty good recipe, complete with a bittersweet chocolate glaze.  It was good enough that I only have a little bit left over today.  Along with the pan of apple crisp which was forgotten in the oven. I’ll give you both recipes with a caveat:  I made up the apple crisp one based on an Ina Garten recipe and the honey cake takes a bunt pan which is, apparently, my nemesis.  I had to make this cake twice as the first time, half of it stayed in the pan when I turned it out.  Sigh.

Honey Cake (from epicurious.com)

Ingredients:

For cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup pure honey
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm coffee (brewed, or instant dissolved in water)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons packed grated orange zest

For chocolate glaze:

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk (not light)
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 4 ounces bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate, finely chopped
Directions:
Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease your bunt pan to within an inch of its life.  I used cooking spray.  Lots of it.
Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and clove into a large bowl.  Whisk to combine.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vegetable oil, honey and coffee.  I didn’t use the orange zest but if you do, add it to this mixture.  If you measure the oil before you measure the honey, don’t rinse the cup, and re-use it to measure the honey,  it will come out much easier.  Once this is combined, add it to the four mixture and whisk again until the whole thing is combined and smooth.
Pour into the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until it’s springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean when placed in the center.  Let it cool on a rack for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the coconut milk and corn syrup in a small heavy pan.  Bring it to a simmer and stir until it is combined.  Chop your chocolate (use either a food processor or a serrated knife)  and add it to the warm mixture.  Let it stand for a minute and then stir it until smooth. Let it stand so it will get slightly thicker but still be pourable.
Say a prayer to the bunt cake gods and turn your cake out onto a rack. Perhaps loosen the sides with a rubber spatula first.  Good luck to you on this.
Pour the glaze over the cake, letting it run down the sides.  You can let it sit a room temperature as the glaze sets.
Forgotten Apple Crisp
Ingredients:
For the apples:
Several pounds of apples, peeled, cored and chopped into similar sized pieces
3/4-1 cup white sugar (depends on how sweet you want your apples)
1-2 teaspoons each of cinnamon, cloves, ginger (to taste)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
For the Crisp:
12 tablespoons butter, cool and chopped
1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup white sugar
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix your apples, spices, sugar and cornstarch.  I use my hands- it helps for more even coverage. Place the apple mixture into a baking dish.  In an electric mixer, combine all the crisp ingredients except the butter.  Once everything is combined, add the butter and mix until you have a sort of sandy mixture.  Sprinkle this over the top of the apple mixture, covering all of the apples.  Bake for about an hour or until it’s nicely browned and the apples are bubbling.  Do not forget about it in the oven or else you will have some very dark apple crisp that you will have to eat all by yourself.