Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Sausage, Kale, and Lentil Soup

March 31, 2011

I was so happy to see this recipe in the Week in a Day episode I chose, since my CSA has been providing me with lots of beautiful kale.  I was also happy to see a hearty soup on the list, as the winter-into-spring weather has been providing some crazy temperature fluctuations (in other words, soup season ain’t quite over yet).

Much like the bolognese, the most crucial things you need for this soup are a big stock pot and some simmering time.  The only tricky thing is the lentils – since I was planning on pre-cooking and then reheating the soup, I didn’t want to cook the lentils 100% during the first simmer.  I probably undershot it a tad, though, since they ended up being a bit too al dente when we ate the meal the first time around.  I had enough soup left over to freeze a few servings, so I imagine that the lentils will be softer with each reheating.

Flavor-wise, the soup is spot on – if you follow the recipe and use hot sausage, it provides a wonderful spicy kick.  If hot isn’t your thing, I’m sure it would be delicious with a sweeter or milder sausage.  Enjoy! 

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound hot sausage, bulk or casing removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped, leafy tops reserved
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large Idaho (russet) potato, peeled and chopped into small dice
  • 1 Fresno or Holland chile pepper, thinly sliced or finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped or sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bundle Tuscan, black, or dinosaur kale, stemmed and very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 cups lentils
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
In a soup pot or large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Add the sausage, breaking it into pieces, and cook until lightly brown. Add the onions, celery, carrots, potato, chile pepper, rosemary, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook to soften, 8 to 10 minutes.  Wilt in the kale, and season the kale leaves with a little freshly grated nutmeg. Stir in the tomato paste for 30 seconds, then add white wine. Cook to reduce by 1/2 and stir in the lentils, stock, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the soup until the lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Serve immediately or cool, store, and reheat. Serve with chopped celery greens to garnish.

Recipe: Beer-Braised Chicken Thighs

March 29, 2011
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Meal number two of the Week in a Day experiment was beer-braised chicken thighs.  This dish was sure to be a hit, since it included the words “beer” and “chicken thighs.”  I was also optimistic since the bolognese from the same episode had turned out so well.  The only thing that concerned me was reheating everything, since you never know if that will zap all of the good flavor and texture out of a meal.

Basically, I prepped the recipe as if I was going to eat it right then and there, but then I took the whole Dutch oven off the heat and refrigerated it “as-is” (in other words, I didn’t put it in different or individual storage containers).  Then, the night I served the dish, I took the Dutch oven out of the fridge, got it to room temperature (or pretty close), and then heated it through over low-medium heat.  I served it over couscous because I had it on hand and it was quick and easy, but it could work easily well over rice or smaller pasta or even mashed potatoes.

The dish was full of flavor, though maybe not as spicy as I anticipated (easily adjustable for next time).  And since all of the slicing and dicing is done on the official cook day, it’s an easy dish to throw together.  I really couldn’t believe it, but Rachael Ray was batting a thousand…

  • 8 pieces bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 link andouille sausage, casing removed and chopped, or 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 rounded tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle lager beer
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes with chiles or stewed tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • Scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • Warm baguette, for mopping

Pat the chicken thighs dry, and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the chicken and brown on both sides in 2 batches.  Remove the chicken to a plate and spoon out 1/2 the drippings, and add the andouille sausage. Brown for 2 minutes and then add the onion, celery, pepper, garlic, and thyme, and cook to soften, for about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Add the flour, stir 1 to 2 minutes, and then pour in the beer and let the foam subside. Stir in the tomatoes, stock, and hot sauce. Let the sauce thicken a bit, and then slide the chicken into the pot and simmer to cook through. Serve with warm crusty bread, or cool and store for make-ahead meal.

Recipe: Classic Bolognese

March 28, 2011

Just when I was starting to get really bored with all of the options on the Food Network, my husband and I moved and got Directv and were happily introduced to the Cooking Channel.  There are a lot of great programs, but one of my favorites has to be Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day.  Basically, she promises that if you spend one day in the kitchen, you can have five nights worth of tasty, home cooked meals.

I never got on the “I hate Rachael Ray” bandwagon, but I was never her biggest fan, either.  I felt that her recipes were just okay, though I was certainly in favor of getting busy folks into the kitchen rather than spending time at the drive-through.  I was somewhat skeptical of the week in a day concept, but I decided to give it a go and spend a dreary Sunday afternoon getting all of the dishes ready for the week.  Suggestion for the Cooking Channel – for this show, since folks are cooking everything at once and thus shopping for everything at once, could you possibly provide a comprehensive shopping list (organized by food genre) along with the recipes?

This bolognese was the first dish up.  As most sauces and soups are, it’s pretty easy to put together – you just need a BIG stock pot and some time, especially since this recipe as-written represents a double batch.  Don’t balk at the chicken livers – they really do add a deep, earthy flavor to the sauce.  And of course, if at all possible, use homemade stock; I had homemade beef stock saved up from the last prime rib I roasted, and that really made a difference.  The end result is a meaty, hearty sauce with TONS of flavor.  It’s richer and less acidic than my usual marinara sauce, but if you’re in the mood for something really soul-satisfying, it definitely fits the bill.  Make sure you toast a baguette (or other crusty bread) to sop up every last drop.

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, finely diced
  • 4 ounces trimmed chicken livers, finely diced, optional, but recommended
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 small ribs celery, finely chopped, with leafy tops, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground beef (chuck or sirloin) and veal mix
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 pinches ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine (about 1/3 bottle)
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian pureed tomatoes
  • 1 pound egg tagliatelle or bucatini pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Warm 2 cups milk in small pot over lowest heat.  Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly brown. Then add the chicken livers, and cook almost through. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaves, and cook until tender, 10 minutes.  Add the ground meat and cook through breaking into pieces, but do not brown. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, clove, and stir in the wine and allow it to cook into the meat, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the warm milk to the meat and allow it to absorb into the meat for 1 minute. Stir in the beef stock, vegetable stock, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Divide the sauce in 1/2, cool, and freeze one batch. Cool and store the remainder for a make-ahead meal within the week. Alternately, cook pasta to al dente, thin the sauce a bit with a bit of starchy pasta water and toss with pasta dressed with butter to combine. Top with grated cheese and chopped celery leaves. Serve with green salad.

Recipe: Butternut Squash Mostarda

March 21, 2011

Even though the olive oil poached salmon was a winner, I may have loved this side dish just as much.  It was sweet, acidic, salty, citrusy, slightly spicy – you name it, the flavor was there.  And despite all of the crazy stuff going on with this dish, it still felt really light and fresh.  Do note that it takes a LOT of butternut squash to make 4 cups diced – and there is a good amount of prep time associated with peeling and chopping those bad boys.  Plan accordingly, with your wallet AND with the clock!

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 orange, peel removed in strips with a veggie peeler and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried mustard powder
  • 1/2 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped

Coat a large straight-sided saute pan with olive oil. Add in the red onions, crushed red pepper, and season with salt. Bring the pan to a medium heat and cook the onions until they are soft and aromatic, 7 to 8 minutes.

Add in the squash, dried cranberries, sugar, champagne vinegar, orange zest, mustard seeds, mustard powder, and season with salt. Stir to combine. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and cook another 15 minutes, stirring the squash frequently until the liquid has evaporated and the squash is a chutney-like consistency. Check to make sure the squash is cooked through and soft but can still hold its shape. Stir in chives.

Recipe: Warm Farro and Cranberry Bean Salad

March 15, 2011
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One of the sides I served with the olive-oil poached salmon was this warm farro and cranberry bean salad.  It is a REALLY hearty side dish – in fact, much like my go-to barley salad, this dish could easily be served as a main course.

I was surprised with how multidimensional this dish was.  The smoke of the bacon, the sweetness of the onions, the slightly bitter taste of the radicchio, and the meaty texture of the farro and beans all went really nicely together.  I couldn’t find fresh cranberry beans, so I used dried and modified my cooking times accordingly.

There is a lot to think about if you cook this dish at the same time as you are trying to prepare the salmon and the butternut squash mostarda, but if you read the recipes all the way through and plan things according to their time, attention, and cookware needs, you can have yourself a super-satisfying dinner.

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups shelled fresh cranberry beans
  • 2 cups farro
  • 4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch lengths
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 head radicchio Trevisano, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped

Bring a saucepan of well salted water to a boil. Add the cranberry beans, let the water come back to a boil, and cook the beans for 10 to 12 minutes. Bite a few beans to make sure they are cooked through. Scoop the beans out of the water and reserve. Add the farro to the water, let the water come back to a boil, and cook for 15 minutes. Taste the farro to make sure it is cooked through. Remove the farro from the water and reserve.

Add the bacon to a large, wide pan, give a drizzle of olive oil, and bring to a medium heat. When the bacon has let out a lot of fat and starts to become crispy, add in the onions and season with salt and crushed red pepper. Cook the onions until they become soft and aromatic, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cooked beans and farro and stir to combine. Add the chicken stock and taste for seasoning; season with salt if needed. Cook until the chicken stock has reduced by about half, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the radicchio and chives and cook until the radicchio is wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Recipe: Olive Oil Poached Salmon

March 14, 2011

Anne Burrell is one of my new favorite TV chefs.  I always liked watching her as Mario Batali’s sous on “Iron Chef America,” but I am so glad that she’s getting the spotlight all to herself now.  On her show, “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef,” she has such a contagious enthusiasm about food.  Oh, and the dishes she prepares?  They always look AMAZING.

So, when my parents were joining us for dinner recently, I decided to make up for “the burnt, sauce-less short rib disaster of 2011” and give some of Chef Burrell’s recipes a go.  While I was in California, I watched an episode where she poached salmon in olive oil – and my mom LOVES her some salmon.  As a show of confidence, I even splurged on some really choice salmon from Whole Foods.  I was going to honor the protein, gosh darnit.

It turns out that olive oil poaching is the easiest and most delicious thing EVER.  Seriously, the fish was like buttah.  The little satchet of herbs was pretty subtle in terms of the flavor it imparted on the salmon, but it still tasted delicious and had wonderful texture.

I’ll post recipes for the two side dishes later (warm farro and cranberry bean salad and butternut squash mostarda), but I would definitely recommend this meal.  And I am definitely a member of Team Anne – I hope she cleans up on “Chopped: All-Stars.”   

  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon, peel removed in wide strips with a veggie peeler
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 quart extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
  • Kosher salt

Place the aromatics (the garlic, thyme, lemon zest, coriander, and bay leaves) in cheesecloth. Tie into a sachet. Add the oil to a large straight-sided saute pan and toss in the sachet. Bring the pan to a medium heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Let the salmon come to room temperature and season generously with salt. Add the salmon fillets to the pan with the olive oil. Let the fish cook in the oil for 15 to 17 minutes. Remove from the oil with a fish spatula to a plate before serving