Monday, October 07, 2013

perfect fall butternut squash bisque

a rich, delicious squash bisque, redolent with the flavors of Fall. this would be wonderful served at the beginning of a Thanksgiving dinner, or anytime during the Fall/Winter seasons. be sure to look for the *asterisks to make it Paleo-compliant.
  • 2 butternut squash, ~ 2 pounds each?, cut in half from stem to blossom end, seeds removed
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (*or coconut oil)
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced finely
  • 3-5 stalks celery (depending on size -- ideally, 5 of the paler, more tender inner stalks), diced finely
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground, dried thyme, or 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, minced (optional)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 quart good chicken stock
  • 1-2 cups heavy cream (*or full-fat canned coconut milk)
  • (*optional: a few tablespoons of sour cream)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
to garnish:
  • 1 cup slivered almonds, squash seeds or pepitas toasted with a dab of oil (ideally, coconut oil, but olive oil or ghee will work, too), salt, pepper and paprika until golden brown, set aside to cool
  • (optional) a little bowl of fresh thyme leaves and/or finely slivered fresh sage leaves
preheat oven to 350. line baking sheets with parchment paper, lightly butter the paper and place squash on it, cut side down. roast in oven for 45 minutes - 1 hour, until done. remove from oven to cooling racks, flip cut side up and let cool while you prepare the onions.

while the squash is cooling, melt the butter over medium-high heat and sautee the onion with a pinch of salt. add the celery after about 5 minutes. reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until onion is translucent and slightly golden brown on the edges. add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

with a good-sized spoon, scoop the butternut squash flesh out and place in a bowl, discarding the skins. add the squash flesh to the simmering soup mixture on the stove and allow to cook together for 5-10 minutes, to marry the flavors. turn off the burner, remove the bay leaves and set aside. either use an immersion (stick) blender, or remove soup in batches to a blender or food processor to puree until it's velvety smooth (it's much easier with the immersion blender; you will have to be very careful with a regular blender or food processor when pureeing hot soup, as it tends to expand the air in the blender and blow the lid off, making a big, potentially painful mess. you can get decent immersion blenders from under $20 now; I recommend them highly). if you've used a regular blender or food processor, return all the pureed soup to the pot (if you've used the recommended immersion blender, it's already in there). put the reserved bay leaves back in. add a cup of the cream and bring the soup to a simmer, stirring regularly. taste and assess. remove those pesky bay leaves again. add more chicken stock or some water if it's too thick; add more cream if it needs more richness; add the sour cream if it needs a hint of tartness (or save the sour cream to use as a garnish at the table, swirling it into each bowl before adding the almonds). adjust all seasonings; salt and pepper to taste. at this point, it should taste like much more than the sum of its parts; it should taste like a combination of the essence of Fall and Thanksgiving. serve with suggested garnishes and enjoy.

*note: to make a Paleo-compliant version, use coconut oil instead of butter to saute the onions and celery, substitute a good, creamy, full-fat coconut milk (or even just the cream that collects at the top of the can when you refrigerate it) for the heavy cream, and skip the sour cream. there's probably a non-dairy, Paleo-compliant sour cream substitute (coconut cream with a bit of lemon juice added, maybe?), but I haven't tasted one yet so have no recommendation. and the sour cream is SO very not necessary for this recipe. I'll be making a Paleo version next time!

Monday, May 27, 2013

zucchini-based "hummus"

this tastes so much like garbanzo bean-based hummus, but is free of lectins, lower in carbohydrate, mostly raw, and it's delicious, so why not try it? we make this for guests, afternoon snacks, potlucks -- all kinds of occasions, and it always receives compliments.

adapted from this Primal Kitchen Chaos recipe:

  • 1-3/4 cup peeled, cubed raw zucchini (about 2-3 medium zucchinis)
  • 1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews, sunflower seeds or macadamia nuts
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (roasted sesame butter)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
  • 1+ cloves of garlic, pressed (to your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
puree it all in a food processor or blender until creamy. garnish with a sprinkle of paprika if desired. that's it! serve with raw veggies and/or paleo-compliant crackers to dip.




Saturday, May 11, 2013

how to roast all sorts of vegetables


properly roasted veggies should have both golden and dark brown crisp bits/edges, without being burned. they should be tender, but never mushy, and bright in color. roasting concentrates the deep greens and bright oranges, yellows and reds in a way that stovetop cooking can’t replicate. it sweetens bitterness, caramelizes natural sugars and intensifies the aromas and flavors.

here’s how to do them right:
  •  wash and dry in salad spinner or with clean towels
  • cut into serving pieces, snap off tough ends, remove inedible parts as desired
  •  toss with a bit of cooking fat (coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, melted butter, macadamia nut oil, etc.) and a good pinch of kosher salt
  • spread out on a baking sheet in a single layer, with a bit of room between pieces
  • move oven rack to about 6 inches below broiler element
  • turn on broiler
  • put sheet in oven, and set timer for approximately half the total cooking time. total cooking times for many veggies as follows: asparagus, whole cherry tomatoes, green beans, pea pods, sliced zucchini or summer squash: 7 minutes. broccoli or cauliflower florets, thickly sliced onion, sliced radicchio, whole green onions: 12 minutes. bell pepper strips, eggplant slices, cabbage wedges, halved (or small whole) zucchini or summer squash, quartered fresh mushrooms: 17 minutes.  whole fresh mushrooms, carrot, parsnip, sweet potato or beet chunks, quartered onions: 25-35 minutes.
  •  at half-time, take sheet out of oven, and flip, stir, or shake veggies as appropriate, to ensure even cooking
  • return to oven and set timer for remainder of cooking time
when done, remove to a bowl, and if desired, garnish with any of the following (combine toppings as desired): chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, basil), freshly ground black pepper, smoked or sweet paprika, a bit more melted butter or oil, a sprinkling of nuts (whole if small, chopped or sliced if larger), a small clove of pressed garlic, grated or crumbled cheese, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar. roasted veggies are delicious just as they are, straight from the oven, or cold in a salad or dipped in something luscious.







Friday, May 10, 2013

homemade ranch dip, from scratch!

easy and delicious, with just the right balance of herbs and tangy-ness; this is the perfect consistency for dipping crackers, chips and/or veggies. to use it for salad dressing, either substitute buttermilk for the Greek yogurt, or thin out the dip with a bit of buttermilk or plain almond milk. kids and adults alike love it! don't buy the powdered junk in packets (filled w/preservatives, sweeteners and the like) -- whip it up at home in your blender or food processor.


  • 1/2 cup homemade mayo (preferably made with light olive oil, macadamia nut oil or another paleo-approved oil)
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt (or buttermilk, if making salad dressing)
  • 1  clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

snip the chives with kitchen scissors, or slice thinly with a knife into small rounds. roughly chop the parsley, then throw all the ingredients into the food processor or blender and process, scraping down the sides as needed.


Friday, April 19, 2013

honey-ginger barbecue sauce

oh, this is one of those recipes that's more than the sum of their parts. my father used to make his own barbecue sauce and it was so delicious. I decided to do a variation of his recipe that includes fresh ginger and honey, but the basic recipe is his. it smelled so heavenly right that I wanted to eat dinner the moment it was done!

this sauce can be brushed on meat before/after grilling (I tend to think it's best to do a dry rub before grilling, then brush with sauce during the last few moments), used in a crockpot or French oven with a roast to make shredded BBQ beef (that's what's happening with mine right now -- in the oven with a 2+ pound chuck roast at 300 degrees for 3-4 hours; when it's done I'll shred the meat into the sauce), or served alongside grilled/barbecued anything. it will keep in the fridge, in a jar or covered container, for at least a week or two.

  • 1 stick butter, divided into 2 pieces: a 2-tablespoon chunk and the remaining 6 tablespoon piece
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup ketchup (the simplest kind you can find is best; either regular or unsweetened will work fine)
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Pickapeppa sauce (if you have it on hand -- it's good stuff)
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar will be good here, if you'd prefer)
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2-3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
in a large, deep saucepan or French oven, saute the onion in the 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat until browned. add all the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low (just enough to keep it bubbling). continue to simmer, uncovered (stirring from time to time) until thickened and glossy. remove from heat to allow to cool for a moment, then puree -- easiest to do with an immersion blender; if you're using a regular blender, be sure it's fairly cool so the heat doesn't blow the top off! do be sure to puree -- it brings out the ginger flavor and makes this beyond good.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

basic balsamic vinaigrette

our everyday vinaigrette, this is made to my family's taste, mind you -- we tend to like our vinaigrette with a slightly higher proportion of balsamic vinegar than usual. I find the typical 3:1 (oil: vinegar) ratio to be nigh tasteless, but you may end up wanting more olive oil in your finished dressing. make it the way you want it -- it will still be delicious.
this takes less than 5 minutes to whip up in the blender.

  • 1 clove garlic, pressed, minced or grated on microplane
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon kosher salt (adjust to your taste -- if you use table salt, start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1-3/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
preparation couldn't be easier: place all but the oil in the blender and pulse a few times to combine. add all the oil at once and blend for 30 seconds to a minute, until completely combined. decant into a clean bottle.

this amount lasts a family of four about a week... we DO eat a lot of salads.

possible variation: add chopped fresh herbs (parsley, basil, chives, etc.) to taste -- but I prefer to add them to the salad and keep the dressing simple. that way, the herbs stay crisp and fresh and bright green.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

spinach-mushroom enchiladas suizas

filling:

  • 3 bunches (1-1/2 pounds) spinach, trimmed of stems
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (cremini or white button mushrooms)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or grated on microplane)
  • 1 pound swiss cheese, grated (set aside half for sauce & garnish)
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced thinly (use half of them in the filling; set aside the rest)
  • salt and pepper
place the spinach leaves in a large bowl of cold water and wash thoroughly (change the water if spinach is particularly sandy). lift the leaves out with your hands, letting the water drain back into the bowl, then place in a large stockpot. when it's all in there, cover the pot and place on the stove over medium-high heat. check after a few minutes to stir it down as it wilts, and remove from heat as soon as it's all done -- this only takes a few minutes. pour the cooked spinach into a colander to drain and run a little cool water over it so you can handle it. when cooled and drained, take handfuls and squeeze them until relatively free of liquid, then chop roughly and place in a large bowl. in a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter, and saute the onions over medium-high heat until translucent. add in the mushrooms and continue to cook until mushrooms release their liquid and onions are turning golden brown. turn the heat to medium and add in the garlic; cook for another 2-3 minutes to cook off most of the mushroom liquid. remove from heat and add contents of skillet to the spinach. add the grated cheese and green onions, combine well, then add salt and pepper to taste.

sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • half of the remaining sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup full-fat sour cream (or Mexican crema fresca, or creme fraiche)
  • 1 6-ounce can mild green chilis
  • the remaining grated swiss cheese (set aside 1/2 cup of the cheese and combine with the remaining green onions to garnish)
  • salt and pepper
in the same skillet in which you cooked the onions and mushrooms, melt the butter over medium-low heat and add the green onions. cook for a few minutes to soften, then stir in the flour and cook for another 3-4 minutes. whisk in the milk and raise heat to medium; continue cooking & whisking until thickened and bubbly. whisk in the sour cream, green chilis and cheese and cooking, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted. salt and pepper to taste.

assembly:
  • 12 white corn tortillas
  • small amount vegetable oil
  • the combined swiss cheese and sliced green onions from above
preheat oven to 350 degrees F. clean out the skillet and lightly oil. brush one side of each corn tortilla lightly with oil, then cook over medium-high heat in the skillet, one at a time, flipping each one once, for just a minute -- until soft and floppy -- and stack them on a plate as they're done. butter a large casserole pan (or two -- you need enough space for 12 enchiladas) and pour a little of the sauce into the bottom. now you're ready to roll! fill each tortilla with a few tablespoons of filling (I divided it into 12 portions before starting, which made it easier), and nestle  them closely together so they retain their shape. when done, pour the remaining sauce over all, and top with the reserved grated swiss and sliced green onions. cover the casserole with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes, until thoroughly heated through and bubbly. raise the heat to 400 degrees F, remove the foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes to brown the top a bit. serve with rice (I made brown rice with a bit of chopped cilantro, lime juice and lime zest stirred in just before serving) and refried beans.



I can't say enough good things about the microplane zester/grater. I use mine to grate fresh garlic, zest citrus, and to grate harder cheeses (I used a regular box grater for the swiss cheese, but it's fantastic for harder cheeses like parmigiano, etc.).

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

blondies

photo courtesy Stacey Cloud Chester

on one hand, blondies are very simple -- just like brownies, except the chocolate is concentrated in the chips, rather than incorporated into the batter. on the other hand, they're richer and more complex than brownies: because the batter is made with brown sugar, they're almost butterscotch-y in flavor. I used 2/3 semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/3 chopped bittersweet chocolate (both Ghiradelli), because it's what I had on hand, and the sweet batter called out for a more intense chocolate. you can use light brown sugar, dark brown sugar or a combination - - the more dark brown sugar, the more butterscotch-y the flavor. this recipe makes a nice big batch.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 2-1/2 cups light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 scant teaspoon kosher salt (kosher salt is tastier and less bitter than table salt. if you don't have any on hand, use 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped or broken up into approximately 1/2" pieces
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
preheat the oven to 350 °F. butter and flour an 9 x 13 inch baking pan. in a large bowl, stir the eggs and sugar together (you do not want to incorporate extra air here; these are best when dense and just barely leavened), then the vanilla and salt. pour in the melted butter and whisk to combine thoroughly (do not overbeat).  sift the flour and baking powder directly over the bowl, all at once. again, gently whisk it all together until just combined -- i.e., no streaks of flour unincorporated; batter is thick and homogenous. stir in the chopped bittersweet chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips. using a flexible spatula or spoon, scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly and smothing the top out a bit. bake for 25 minutes. test center for doneness and continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. cool on a rack, cut into small squares and eat!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

creamy turkey noodle soup with mushrooms and fresh dill

*note: this soup recipe has been adapted from smittenkitchen.com's chicken noodle soup recipe. thank you, Deb!

an ideal soup for a cold night, whether you're using up leftover turkey or not -- it's remarkably easy to make from scratch, using various cuts of turkey. on this particular occasion, I wanted to use up two previously roasted turkey drumsticks (and wings, but those don't really count for much) -- I knew that I'd want to add some white meat for balance, so I purchased a bone-in half turkey breast to add. it would truly be just as quick and simple to make without the leftovers, by purchasing two drumsticks and cooking them along with the breast. please make note: fresh parsley and dill are truly essential to the flavor of this soup. please do not leave out or substitute another herb for the parsley or dill, unless you're allergic to or despise either herb, of course! if that's the case, use whatever fresh herbs sound good to you -- tarragon would be quite good. fresh thyme or sage would be okay, but must be used sparingly -- only about 1/3 the amount, as they're quite strong in flavor. I don't recommend dried herbs in this soup -- its essential flavor is in the freshness of the herbs (especially the dill). even the cream is secondary -- you could substitute stock for the cream if you want a brothy-er soup. but please use fresh parsley and dill as recommended if at all possible. you'll understand why as soon as you taste it!

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 medium white onions, diced
  • 1 8-ounce box mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 pounds either leftover roasted or fresh turkey pieces (for example: 2 drumsticks, 2 wings, one bone-in half breast)
  • 2 quarts (64 ounces) chicken or turkey stock, plus water as needed
  • 1-2 stalks celery, cut into 2-3 large pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 3-4 large pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon or more freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 large stalks celery, cut into small dice
  • 2 medium-large carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 6 ounces dry noodles (egg noodles, mini-farfalle and orichiette are all good choices -- something small, but substantial, with a shape that catches some of the broth)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley (flat Italian or curly), finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill, finely minced
  • pinch of nutmeg, to taste
  • drops of hot sauce, to taste
  • more kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large French or Dutch oven (or other large heavy soup pot) over medium-high heat and saute the onion, browning thoroughly while cooking (to develop maximum flavor and color without burning). when onions are translucent and light golden brown, add the remaining tablespoon of butter, and then the sliced mushrooms. continue to saute until mushrooms are cooked through and onions are deep golden brown. scrape mushroom-onion mixture out into a clean bowl and set aside. return French oven to the heat, add the olive oil, allow to get hot, then add the raw turkey pieces, skin-side-down, and brown. for maximum flavor, brown only one layer of raw turkey pieces at a time (don't add more pieces on top, or they'll steam, not brown).  turn and brown on other side. if you're using only fresh raw turkey pieces, you'll have to brown in batches. any previously-roasted pieces of turkey are already browned, so this step isn't necessary for them -- just place them in the pot on top of the other pieces after the browning is done.

and speaking of "after the browning is done," pour the stock over all, then add cold water as needed to just cover them. add in the large chunks of celery and carrot, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. lower heat to a simmer, skim any scum from the broth and cook for 1 hour (if you're using only previously-roasted pieces, cook for 30 minutes). while this is cooking, place the mushrooms & onions you previously set aside into a separate soup or stock pot, and add the heavy cream. heat over medium-low flame until boiling; lower heat to a simmer and allow cream to reduce for about 30 minutes, then turn off the heat, and add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. when the turkey pieces have cooked the appropriate amount of time, remove them to a plate for ~10 minutes to cool before handling. meanwhile, strain the broth and return it to the large French oven and bring to a simmer. add the diced celery and carrot to the broth and let cook for 5 minutes, then add the noodles to the broth mixture and cook (according to package directions) until they're al dente. while the veggies and noodles cook in the broth, remove skin and bone from the turkey and chop/shred into bite-sized pieces. when the noodles are cooked, add the cream, onion & mushroom mixture to the soup pot, then the shredded/chopped turkey, then the minced parsley and dill. quickly bring back up to a simmer, and add the nutmeg, hot sauce, salt & pepper to taste. at this point, the soup should be positively scrumptious. and good thing, because it's ready to serve! it will be even better on the second day after making.

Friday, December 14, 2012

shakshouka

for the seventh night of Hanukkah, I made shakshouka for dinner. okay, the truth is that I made it because I got a great deal on medium-hot New Mexican dried red chiles, and I couldn't wait for tomorrow's carne adovada to try them out. instead of using powdered dried red chile, I made a puree out of the dried chiles. most of the puree went in the fridge for another dish, but I saved 1/2 cup for the shakshouka. the chiles gave the sauce a gorgeous, deep, rich color & flavor. I made a couple more changes from the recipe I usually use -- instead of tomato paste, I used soaked, pureed sun-dried tomatoes to thicken the sauce up, and I added a few spoonfuls of an Italian green tomato relish I made earlier this year. I didn't have bell peppers on hand, so I used some finely chopped pickled jalapeno, which worked very well -- so well, I'll definitely do that again. finally: although shakshouka is usually served with bread (to which I have *no* objection!), I had some roasted potatoes and butternut squash to use up, so I mashed those together with milk, butter, salt & pepper (served that way, it was definitely a dairy meal, and very very delicious at that! but it would be just as good with bread, which is how I'll eat the leftovers). it probably took a total of 20-30 minutes to make, yet tasted like something I'd slaved over all day. shakshouka will be on the menu again soon!

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1-2 pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped OR 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red chile puree (dry red chile pods, stems, veins & seeds removed, soaked in hot water for ~20 minutes, then pureed in a food processor, adding just enough of the soaking water to facilitate processing -- you want to end up with a nice, thick puree when done) OR 2 tablespoons powdered pure red chile (not cayenne; not chili powder -- you want pure red chili pods, powdered) plus 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 3 cups chopped ripe tomatoes OR 1-1/2 cans (16-20 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato puree (starting with dried tomatoes that are NOT packed in oil, process just as you did the chili pods) or 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • *optional: a few spoonfuls of green tomato relish, if you have it on hand
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • pinch of sugar, to taste
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4-6 eggs
in a 2-3 quart dutch or french oven OR deep cast iron frying pan, heat the olive oil, then add the onion and saute over medium heat for several minutes, until it starts to brown. add the pepper and continue to cook for a couple of minutes, then lower heat a bit and add the garlic. cook for another minute, just to soften (but be careful not to burn the garlic!), then add the chili puree (or powdered chiles and paprika), tomatoes and sun-dried tomato puree (or tomato paste), bring to a simmer, and add the optional green tomato relish, ground cumin and parsley. simmer for a few minutes until sauce begins to thicken, then taste and season with a bit of sugar, salt and pepper to taste. crack the eggs directly over the simmering tomato sauce, spacing them evenly, then cover the pot and cook for 7-15 minutes longer, until eggs are done to your liking. serve with warm, crusty bread, or another over mashed potatoes or polenta.