Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Butternut Squash Mostarda

March 21, 2011
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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.

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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
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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


Recipe: Butter-Braised Radishes, Kohlrabi, and Brussels Sprouts

February 28, 2011
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This is the side dish I served with the pan-roasted duck breasts, and truthfully, it almost upstaged the meat.  These vegetables are so delicious – if you know someone who claims to hate any of these specimens, I believe this dish would set them straight.

Speaking of, this was my first experience either eating OR cooking kohlrabi.  The “German turnip” is actually a member of the cabbage family, but don’t let that sway you from using it.  It is much milder and sweeter than cabbage, and it has a really nice texture (I likened it to a broccoli stalk).  You can see what it looks like below, both uncut/unpeeled and then prepped for the dish.

As with all recipes, make sure you read the whole thing before starting – there are a lot of steps, but if you prep smart, you can get this on the table within a reasonable timeframe.  Enjoy!  Oh, and you can see a photo of the finished dish with the duck at the link above.

  • 12 ounces Brussels sprouts
  • 2 bunches Easter or red radishes
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar, plus more to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock, plus more if needed
  • 6 kohlrabi, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives or mint

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare an ice bath.  Meanwhile, trim the root ends of the Brussels sprouts and remove and discard any tough or bruised outer leaves.  Cut the sprouts in half through the root end.  Blanch the sprouts until tender, about 4 minutes.  Chill in the ice bath and drain.  Transfer to a tray and put in the refrigerator to chill.

Trim the greens from the radishes and wash the radishes under cold water.  Cut larger radishes into 6 wedges and smaller radishes into quarters.  Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a saute pan big enough to hold the radishes in a single layer.  Add the shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, until softened.  Add the radishes, sugar, and vinegar, season generously with salt and pepper, and add 1/4 cup of the stock.  Bring to a simmer, cover the pan, and simmer gently for about 8 minutes, until the radishes are crisp-tender.  Cook uncovered, swirling the pan, to glaze the radishes, about 4 minutes.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Meanwhile, cut the stems and roots from the kohlrabi.  Stand each kohlrabi on a cut end and peel it with a sharp knife, cutting deep enough to reach the tender flesh.  Cut lengthwise into slices about 1/2 inch thick.  Trim the rounded sides of the slices and cut the kohlrabi into 1/2 inch-wide batons.  You need 2 cups of batons.  Add the kohlrabi to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender.  Drain and transfer to paper towels to drain thoroughly.

Bring the remaining 1/4 cup stock to a simmer in a large saute pan.  Whisk in he remaining butter until emulsified and smooth.  Add the Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi and cook over high heat for 45 seconds.  Add the radishes and any liquid remaining in the pan and heat through.  If the butter begins to break, you can swirl in another couple of tablespoons of stock or water.  Toss in the chives and season with salt and pepper and a few drops of vinegar.  Transfer to a platter and serve.


Recipe: Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts

February 28, 2011
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Oh so very long ago, I posted about my first experience with the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.  I actually cooked TWO meals from the cookbook that weekend, but those meatballs were just the warmup for my inaugural journey into cooking duck.  That’s right, kids – as much as I love to eat ol’ Daffy and Donald, I had never before attempted to prepare duck in my very own kitchen.

Strangely enough, my biggest problem with this recipe was actually FINDING the duck.  I really need to locate an honest-to-goodness butcher in my neighborhood.  I ended up getting the meat at Whole Foods, and I have no doubt that it was fresh and of reasonable quality, but it was more of the pre-packaged variety, so I didn’t have any choice in terms of the size of the breasts (and they were smaller than the recipe called for).  The good news is, there is a large directory of suppliers in the back of the cookbook, so even if I can’t find a local meatmonger, I can always investigate my mail-order options.

The dish was VERY tasty, and I was proud of my first duck-cooking attempt.  There is certainly room for improvement, though, so I’m sure I’ll try this one again.  Note: I served the duck, as suggested, with butter-braised vegetables (also in the cookbook).  I’ll definitely post that recipe shortly – it was fabulous.

  • Six 10-12 ounce Pekin duck breasts, preferably with tenderloins still attached
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Ground nutmeg
  • 1 orange
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 6 bay leaves
  • Canola oil
  • Grey salt or other course sea salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Using a sharp knife, cut a 1/4 inch crosshatch pattern in the skin of each breast, being careful not to pierce the meat.  (Do this while the duck is cold, since it’s difficult to make such precise cuts at room temperature.)  Turn the duck breasts skin side down on the baking sheet.  If the tenderloins, the smaller piece of meat that runs along the bottom of the breast, are still attached, leave them on the breasts.  Use a paring knife to remove the small white tendon that runs through each tenderloin.  You will see a vein that runs the length of each breast.  Run your finger down the length of each vein, and if any blood comes out, wipe it away with a paper towel.

Season the flesh side of each breast with salt and pepper and a grating of nutmeg.  Grate a little orange zest over each breast.  Sprinkle a few drops of vinegar over the meat.  Lay a sprig of thyme running lengthwise down the center of each breast and cover with a bay leaf.  Turn over and season each breast with a generous pinch of salt and a grating of nutmeg.  Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least one hour, or up to 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet.  Set a metal bowl or other container near the stove.  With a paper towel, blot any moisture from the duck breasts.  Season each side with a pinch of salt.

Pour some canola oil into a large ovenproof frying pan over medium-low heat.  Add the duck skin-side down (in batches, if necessary).  Move the duck breasts every few minutes to help them brown evenly.  As the fat is rendered, carefully remove the excess (leaving about 1/8 inch) from the frying pan; tilt the pan away from the heat, remove the fat with a large kitchen spoon, and transfer it to the metal bowl.  Cook the duck for a total of 20-25 minutes, until the skin is an even rich brown and very crisp; the internal temperature of the breasts should be about 115 degrees.  Flip each breast and just “kiss” the meat side for about 30 seconds.

Put the duck skin side down in the oven and cook for about 5 minutes.  The internal temperature should be about 125 degrees for a rosy medium rare.

Put the duck skin side down on the cooling rack and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  Sprinkle the sliced meat with gray salt and pepper.


Recipe: Farfalle with Golden Beets, Beet Greens, and Pine Nuts

February 21, 2011
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Howdy, howdy!  I’ve missed you, bloglets.  Here is the 30-second update: we stopped playing Fantasy TCAS because I was kicking my hubby’s ass so badly (and relatedly, that Target challenge was el stupido), I’ve been to Winston-Salem and back TWICE over the past two weeks, and now we are in NYC for the long weekend (thanks, dead Presidents).

In an effort to get back in the swing of things, I figured I’d write up this recipe while looking at the snow fall over Manhattan.  This is a nice winter dish, since the warm pasta is so comforting and it’s relatively easy to find golden beets (they had them aplenty at my local Whole Foods, where I was accosted by another shopper who wanted to know what they were and what I was going to do with them).  Husband and I both wished there were more greens in the dish – like all greens, they cook down a ton – but otherwise we really enjoyed the meal.  You could make the dish with regular beets, but the end result will be very pink pasta.

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 large onions, quartered lengthwise through root end, sliced crosswise (about 4 cups)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bunches 2-inch-diameter golden beets with fresh healthy greens; beets peeled, each cut into 8 wedges, greens cut into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 12 ounces farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving

Heat heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts and stir until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil and onions to same skillet and sauté until beginning to soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to sauté until onions are tender and browned, about 30 minutes longer. Add garlic and stir 2 minutes. Scatter beet greens over onions. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons oil over; cover and cook until beet greens are tender, about 5 minutes.Meanwhile, cook beets in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer beets to medium bowl. Return water to boil. Add pasta to beet cooking liquid and cook until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Stir onion-greens mixture and beets into pasta. Add pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to moisten. Season with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Divide pasta among shallow bowls. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve, passing additional cheese.


Recipe: Bourbon-Caramel Truffles

February 10, 2011
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Okay, I know I am terribly behind in terms of Top Chef – last week’s Italian-themed episode didn’t really leave me with a whole lot to talk about (I just thought it was a lackluster elimination challenge, and don’t even get me STARTED on that ridiculous quickfire), and I couldn’t keep the ol’ eyelids open long enough to watch last night’s episode.  I’ll get right on that.

In the meantime, how about a recipe fit for Valentine’s Day?  Yes, I think V-Day is stupid (you should tell your loved ones how you feel about them as much as possible, not just on some arbitrary day in the lamest month imaginable), but I’ve had this truffle recipe sitting in the hopper since Christmas, so what better time to bust it out than when the store shelves are already filled with candies and chocolates galore?

Truffle-making is supposed to be pretty easy, so I thought I’d up the ante by using a Cooking Light recipe.  Nothing tends to screw up a good thing like making it healthier, right?  In any case, they WERE pretty easy to make, but I certainly didn’t get them 100% right on the first try.  The flavor was great (I used high-quality chocolate, which I’m sure made a difference), and the texture was fine (they weren’t gritty or grainy, despite the lack of tons of full-fat dairy), but they got REALLY hard while in the fridge.  Like, hard to the point where I couldn’t scoop or shape them.  So, I wound up with a bunch of oddly-shaped little brown things – my husband, the guinea pig, said that they tasted good but that they looked disturbingly like what our dog deposits in the grass every day (thus, no photo).  Not the high praise I was hoping for.

I’m going to try them again, this time chilling them for about half the time.  If anyone tries this in the near future, let me know how it goes.

  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2  tablespoons  evaporated whole milk
  • 1  tablespoon  golden cane syrup (such as Lyle’s Golden Syrup)
  • Dash of salt
  • 1  tablespoon  bourbon
  • 1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 3.5  ounces  bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1.75  ounces  milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2  tablespoons  unsweetened cocoa

Combine brown sugar, milk, cane syrup, and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon and vanilla extract. Add chocolates; let stand 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Pour into a shallow dish; cover and chill 4 hours. Heat a tablespoon measure with hot water; pat dry. Scoop chocolate mixture with spoon; dip in cocoa. Roll into balls. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Recipe: Spicy Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce

February 4, 2011
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I try to keep a can of pumpkin puree in the pantry at all times.  For pumpkin pie?  Nope.  For my dog.  Yes, my health-conscious pit bull LOVES him some pumpkin.  He also loves sweet potatoes and squash (all varieties, but I suspect his favorite is butternut), for what it’s worth.  At least SOMEONE in our house gets excited about winter produce.

When I saw this recipe in one of my Martha Stewart cookbooks, I knew that the pupster was going to (temporarily) give up his pumpkiny treats – that can of puree was going to be sacrificed for delicious enchiladas.  They couldn’t be easier, and they were absolutely bursting with flavor.  For the roast chicken, you can use any recipe you like, or you can use a store-bought rotisserie bird.  I opted to keep the seeds in the jalapeno, and I used a “Mexican” shredded cheese blend that I happened to have on hand.  The result was a spicy, rich, satisfying meal that took practically no time to put together (I had roasted the chicken the day before).  I hope you enjoy!

  • 1/2 leftover roast chicken, skin removed, meat shredded
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 jalapeno chile, quartered (remove ribs and seeds for less heat, if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 8 corn tortillas (6-inch)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (6 ounces)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine chicken and scallions.  Season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.

In a blender, puree pumpkin, garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, 2 1/2 cups water, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until smooth (hold top firmly as blender will be quite full).  Pour 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square (or other shallow 2-quart) baking dish.  Lay tortillas on work surface; mound chicken mixture on half of each tortilla, dividing evenly.  Roll up tortillas; place, seam side down, in baking dish.  Pour remaining sauce on top; sprinkle with cheese. 

Place dish on a baking sheet; bake until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes before serving.


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Recipe: Latin Baked Chicken

January 26, 2011
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In the month in between travel to San Francisco (an awesome, delicious trip that we took over MLK weekend) and NYC (an awesome, delicious trip that we’ll be taking over Presidents’ Day weekend), the idea is to dial back the unhealthy eating and drinking and get back into a solid exercise routine.  The latter is always harder, not only due to time constraints but also due to the fact that I like cooking a heck of a lot more than I like working out.  Go figure.

This was one of the first new slimmed-down recipes I tried after the New Year, and it turned out to be really tasty.  The marinade doesn’t sound like much, but reducing it and then brushing it on the chicken a few times during cooking really intensified the flavors and allowed the sugars to caramelize a bit.  You really won’t miss the skin on the chicken – the meat is tender and flavorful – and as I’ve said a thousand times before, skinless thighs are no worse for you than skinless breasts (and since they are smaller in size, I find that they make portion control a little easier).  We enjoyed this chicken with saffron rice and steamed vegetables for an easy weeknight dinner.  I hope you enjoy it as well!

  • 1/4  cup  fresh lime juice
  • 3  tablespoons  less-sodium soy sauce
  • 2  tablespoons  honey
  • 2  tablespoons  minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 8  (4-ounce) bone-in chicken thighs, skinned

Preheat oven to 400°. Combine lime juice, soy sauce, 2 tablespoons honey, and chipotle in a large bowl. Add chicken, and toss well to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes at room temperature. Arrange the chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray, reserving marinade. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Place reserved marinade in a blender, and process until smooth. Place pureed marinade in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and cook 3 minutes. Brush chicken with half of cooked sauce; return to oven and bake an additional for 10 minutes. Brush chicken with remaining sauce; bake an additional 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165°.


TCAS – No fish for Fabi

January 18, 2011
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I don’t know what I liked more about last week’s TCAS – the fact that Jamie got the boot (awesome), the fact that the whole fishing field trip was rife with humor (awesomer), OR the fact that I got to watch it in San Francisco with my husband, my sister, and my brother-in-law (awesomest).  The only bad part was that I watched it immediately after arriving in California, so I was a wee bit tired and not so much paying attention to details.  Oh, well.  I suppose no one comes here for detailed recaps anyway, seeing as how others are so much better at them.

Clearly, no one was sorry to see Jamie go (maybe not even Jamie herself, given her lackluster performance throughout), but I was bummed to say goodbye to Tiffani F.  Yes, mostly because she’s on my Fantasy team, but also because I have really enjoyed watching her this go-round.  Frankly, I’ve enjoyed everything she’s done BESIDES her original turn on Top Chef, when she was a raging bitch and just seemed like she was compensating for her insecurities by taking her competitors’ heads off one by one.  I like a good redemption story, what can I say.

Anywho, in addition to the Blais-Fabio bromance and some weird pseudo-sexual comments about holding rods, Carla’s win was a highlight of the episode.  The challenge seemed like it was right up her alley, and I’m really happy that she won.  Marcel, not so much – he was a total dickwad when Carla came back into the stew room and (enthusiastically, I’ll admit, but rightfully so) announced her victory.  He may very well be getting the evil edit, but ya know, if you don’t act like a selfish ass clown, the producers won’t have much of that material to work with, now will they?  Grumble.

Next up…RESTAURANT WARS!!!  Ah, always an epic train wreck.  Can’t wait!


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