Winter Turkey Chili

Last week it suddenly turned into fall around here. The weather cooled off, and the leaves are finally showing some autumn colors (instead of just dropping onto our postage-stamp yard and turning brown). Although last week saw a high temperature of 78 degrees, the brisk autumn weather is here to stay. And I am not exaggerating when I say that this makes me want to eat soup/chili/stew every day of the week.photo 3-6

This recipe is officially called “Rose Bowl Chili,” and is one that my husband brought to our marriage (so I call it Dan’s Turkey Chili). As I know it, his friend’s mom used to make this each year while they watched the Rose Bowl. My husband remains fairly particular about this recipe and follows it exactly. I, of course, cannot be bothered to be so particular. (This is why, while we were dating and for the first two years of our marriage, he would make this chili. I was allowed to chop things only.)

The most difficult part of this recipe, for me, is using the butternut squash. In fact, prior to this time, I’ve always used the pre-cut squash from the grocery store. However, once I realized that it was not as difficult as I’d expected to prep the squash, I felt kind of silly that I’d avoided it for so long. In case you feel intimated like I did, here’s a brief tutorial: Continue reading

Advertisements

Perfect Apple Tart

I’m not much of a baker. It’s not that I can’t bake; it’s more that I have to be in the right frame of mind. Baking always seems to require all these steps – sifting, careful measuring, wet ingredients in one bowl and dry ingredients in another, waiting for the pastry to bake, then waiting for it to cool in order to do the next step. Basically my problem is patience.

So, for me, this apple tart is the definition of a perfect dessert. Simple. Just a few ingredients (only 5!). And delicious.

photo 1-26

This time of year begs for a dessert that is fresh and light – what with all the risotto and and creamy squash soup eating we’ve been doing. This French apple tart uses fresh apples and puff pastry, leaving you feeling satisfied that you’ve had an amazing, sweet dessert, without feeling like you’ve over-indulged. In fact, my husband thinks it’s a wonderful next-morning breakfast. (As one who’s never said no to a good pastry with coffee, I’d have to agree.)

  photo 2-27

photo 3-22

I used frozen puff pastry, making this dessert substantially less fuss and less time-consuming than if you made your own pastry. I would imagine that making your own would be even tastier, but I really had no interest in doing so. (The original recipe that I followed did include a recipe for pastry, but you had to chill the dough in the refrigerator for an hour. See the first paragraph if you’re not sure why that would be a problem for me…).

I have made this dessert several times now, and it’s always been a hit. But the very first time I made it, it qualified for ranking on my list of culinary disasters. Ina Garten is quickly becoming my go-to cooking instructor. I’ve learned so much about cooking in the past couple of months, simply by working my way through one of her cookbooks. However. On this one, she (or her editors) left out a major point of instruction: this tart requires baking on a RIMMED pan. Unless you enjoy setting fires in your oven, then wiping up mounds of baking soda (from your frantic fire-putting-out) the next day. I did figure out how to use my oven’s self-cleaning feature. So there’s that. Seriously. You need to use a rimmed baking pan. Your tart will absolutely have sugary, buttery, juicy apple run-off. Your oven will absolutely catch on fire if you use an unrimmed baking sheet.

photo 5-9  photo 1-27

Actually, there were a couple of things that confused me a little about this particular recipe. It calls for a lot more butter and sugar to be put on the apples than I would have thought necessary. I honestly just couldn’t figure out where to put it all on either of the first two times I made it, and I thought the tart ended up being perfectly sweet without the additional sugar and butter. The recipe also calls for a significant amount (1/2 cup) of apricot jelly. I used a good portion of this the first time I made it, and it seemed like the apricot flavor overwhelmed the apples. We liked it better the second time, with just enough jelly to make the apples glossy and add a hint of sweetness.

 photo 4-18

My last tip: really pile on the apples. My first attempt looked just fine pre-baking, but those apples really shrink up, so the tart ended up being a little sparse with the apples. Do your best to get all four of those apples onto the tart. You won’t regret it.

photo 2-28

photo 3-23

Although this tart is definitely my go-to dessert this fall, it’s gotten me into the mood for some other autumn treats. What’s your favorite thing to bake in the fall?


French Apple Tart

(Adapted from Ina Garten’s french apple tart in Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics)

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions

4 apples (We’ve used a wide variety and they’ve all been tasty, so use what you have/like!)

1/3 cup sugar

2-3 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

1/4 cup apricot jelly or strained apricot jam or preserves

1 Tablespoon rum or water

Begin thawing your puff pastry, or, if you’ve planned ahead and already thawed it, keep it cool in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line your rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Peel the apples and slice them into about a 1/4 inch thick slices. I went not-so-fancy and sliced the apples regularly, but you could slice them through the stem and then core the apple to make more beautiful looking half-moon shapes. (I also saw something online that gave instructions on how to make your tart look like a rose. By all means, if that is your thing, make your tart nice and fancy!) If you’re slicing your apples ahead of time, place them in a bowl and give them a light toss with a couple teaspoons of lemon juice. Then cover the apples and keep them refrigerated until you’re ready to make your tart.

Place your defrosted puff pastry on the lined baking sheet. Prick the pastry with fork to keep it from rising too much as you bake it. Working from the center, overlap the apples tightly in diagonal rows. Fill in the empty spaces on the tart with additional apple slices. Sprinkle your tart with the sugar. Dice the cold butter, then top the apples with the butter.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, rotating your pan once halfway through the baking time. The apple juices, combined with the sugar and butter will run off and burn on the pan. But because you are smarter than me, you will be using a rimmed baking sheet, and it will not be a problem at all.

When the tart is done, let it cool slightly. In the meantime, heat your apricot jam, then strain it though a fine mesh strainer. (I skipped this step the first time, and it’s so much better tasting if you take the time to strain it!) Stir in the rum or water (we couldn’t taste the difference, to be honest). Gently, brush the apples with the apricot mixture, just until all the apples and the pastry are covered. Allow the tart to cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. (It’s quite nice with vanilla or salted caramel ice cream, or just a bit of whipped cream!)

Autumn Squash Risotto

Somehow the last month of summer seemed to fly by in just a few days; how is it over already? Summer is my favorite season by far – the hot, humid weather, the outdoor fun, the fresh produce, the ice cream… So it’s always difficult to transition to fall, but the cooler (beautiful!) weather and amazing fall foods are definitely helping. Our CSA boxes have been a nice mixture of summer produce – tomatoes, bell peppers, green leaf lettuce – and the beginnings of fall – apples, squash.

Yesterday evening, I got started on the autumn recipes by trying a few that were new to me. (The risotto was a huge hit; the French apple tart had some difficulties, so I’ll share that one after another run.) Butternut squash risotto is a favorite of my husband, but although I’ve never made it before, I have had some practice with making risotto.

In our CSA box this week, we received a delicata squash. It’s a sweeter, more tender cousin of the butternut squash. It’s sweet flavor reminds me more of a sweet potato than a butternut squash. It was also surprisingly simple to prepare, as it is far easier to chop than some other winter squashes. I did not peel mine (on the recommendation of a googled website), but I would definitely recommend that you do. The rind was a bit tougher than I would have liked to eat, and I felt that it would take away from the risotto dish. I ended up peeling off the rind post-roasting; doable, but messy!

photo 1-23

I began by roasting this squash in the oven, and no one would complain if you served up this roasted squash as a side dish. But there is something so fall-like and delectable about an indulgent, creamy risotto. You can definitely use any autumn squash in a risotto, if you can’t find a delicata squash. Continue reading

Crispy Parmesan Zucchini

To me, summer and zucchini go hand in hand. Growing up, my mom always had a garden that seemed to produce endless amounts of zucchini. During one particularly bountiful summer we gave zucchini away to all of our neighbors, then piled the next crop on our front lawn with a sign: “FREE.” When even this did not get rid of all of the zucchini, my brothers and I were told to anonymously drop off the veggies on our neighbors’ front porches – I guess so they couldn’t refuse to take it! I mostly remember being feeling nervous that someone would catch us and tell us to take the zucchini back home!

photo 1-4

The tricky thing about zucchini is that you have to eat it fresh. Unlike other summertime favorites, it doesn’t freeze, can, or get made into any kind of sauce very well. So, if you have a lot of it, you can get creative and bake it into things – bread, muffins, cookies… This summer my mom even brought us zucchini brownies. (I’m just guessing, but I think the chocolate to zucchini ratio was pretty high.) My husband and I tend to treat it as an actual vegetable and eat it grilled or in stir fry. Probably because I am fairly lazy about baking.

But my favorite way to eat zucchini is one of the main ways that we ate it growing up – dredged in an egg wash, coated with savory Parmesan bread crumbs, then fried on the stove in a bit of oil. It’s a bit of a messy process and takes a little time, but it’s basic and un-fussy. No need to worry if each slice is evenly coated or if the edges of some pieces get a little dark; it’s part of the “rustic” charm.

photo 2-5

photo 2-6  photo 3-3

photo 1-5

My mom served it as a side dish with anything, but I like to eat it with a thin spaghetti and marinara sauce. I don’t mind keeping this dinner vegetarian, but you could easily sautee chicken or toss in some meatballs, if you are cooking for someone who requires meat for dinner.

photo 3-4

photo 4-3

Throughout this zucchini season, this has been a weekly family dinner. (The baby even gets in on the zucchini fun, although his is pureed and without the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.) What’s your family’s favorite way to eat zucchini?


Crispy Parmesan Zucchini
(Serves 4. Or 2. It’s kind of addicting, so make a lot.)

1 large or 2 small/medium zucchini, peeled and sliced into thin rounds

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan

1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning

2 eggs, beaten

salt

(up to) 3 Tablespoons of butter

(up to) 3 Tablespoons of olive oil

You will need to cook your zucchini in batches. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees and get an oven-safe dish ready to keep the fried zucchini slices warm while you continue to cook. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish, along with a pinch of salt. Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and Italian season in another shallow dish. In a large skillet, melt 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Dip the zucchini slices in the egg mixture, then, using your fingers or a fork, coat with the breadcrumb mixture. When the pan is hot (the oil will be glistening), placed the coated zucchini slices in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Flip each zucchini slice when the bottom is lightly browned. By the time you get about half of your pan full (depending on the size of your skillet, of course!), the first zucchini placed in the pan will be ready to turn. Removed the zucchini from the skillet when both sides are browned and the zucchini is tender. Keep your cooked zucchini warm in your preheated oven. Before you begin your next batch of zucchini, quickly scrape the bottom of your skilled with a spatula to remove most leftover burnt breadcrumb bits. Then add more butter and olive oil as needed before you begin your next batch. Repeat this process until all of your zucchini is cooked.

 

 

One-Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

So it’s been a while since I’ve last blogged. We’ve continued to enjoy our CSA bounty, and I will work to catch up on all the good things we’ve been eating. My hiatus happened because we’ve been busy with all the wonderful things that make summer so fun, including my sister-in-law’s wedding…

photo-14

And this…

DSC03870

Which apparently includes learning to crawling, sprouting two bottom teeth, and pulling up on everything he can possibly reach.

When I finally got around to writing about a blueberry dessert we tried, the post was deleted when when I attempted to publish it. (WHY??) This was sufficiently discouraging, but I’m willing to give it another go.

Anyway, with all the hectic-ness of summer, quick, easy, dinners are always my favorite. Usually that involves me my husband throwing some chicken on the grill. But with this week’s CSA delivery came all the ingredients I needed for a simple one-pot pasta: tomatoes, onion, basil. If you don’t like to wash dishes, but you like pasta, you should give it a try. I’m not Italian, so maybe this is horrifying if you’re Italian. Otherwise, it’s convenient. And tasty.

DSC03880   DSC03884

Basically, the steps are this. (1) Put all your ingredients in a pot. (2) Boil, then simmer for 12-ish minutes. (3) Serve and eat. (I know, right?!? Why is this not on my weekly menu?)

DSC03885

In reality, you might want to be a little more discerning with your pasta. Because you are making your sauce and your pasta all at once, the chances of them actually ending up properly cooked at the same time are not great, but after an attempt or two, it’s fairly simple to figure out.

You’ll want to pay attention to the time it takes to cook the pasta that you’re using. For instance, I used penne pasta that was supposed to take 7 minutes to be al dente. Had I remembered from the previous time that I made this, I would have waited for the sauce to reduce for 5-7 minutes, then added my pasta to cook for the remaining time. I highly recommend this. The stock and tomatoes will take about 12 minutes to reduce (if you use the amounts that I used… longer if you double the recipe), so plan to put your pasta in accordingly. It didn’t ruin our dinner to put the pasta in for the entire time, but the pasta was definitely overcooked.

DSC03888

This was the first time I’ve ever tried heirloom tomatoes, but, basically, they’re tomatoes. The heirloom part is because they are grown from “passed down” seeds, supposedly from at least 1940. However, there are different types of heirloom tomatoes, so this isn’t necessarily the case. They tend to look funky and come in a variety of colors. Ours were that perfect combination of sweet and acid that you always hope tomatoes will have, and I would have preferred to eat them raw, simply because store-bought tomatoes are never this good. Later, I realized that I should have set aside 1/2 cup or so of the tomato, to stir in at the end, giving the sauce a chunkier texture and keeping some of that fresh tomato flavor.

DSC03886

It would also be easy enough to throw in some spinach, zucchini, or steamed butternut squash, also towards the end of the cooking time, to add some more flavor and variety. I didn’t follow a recipe for this one, but there are several out there, if you take the time to look.

Enjoy! I’m off to turn some of our excess zuchinni into baby food for the little guy!


 

One-Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

Serves 2-3 people

2 cups chopped tomatoes (about 2 large tomatoes)

1 small to medium onion (about 1/2 cup)

1 clove crushed garlic

1 bunch basil (I used Thai basil, from our CSA box)

1 tsp. dried oregeno

1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper

2 1/2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you’re keeping it vegetarian)

1 Tbls. olive oil

2 cups penne pasta (Mine cooked in 7 minutes… check the box! And adjust your cooking time accordingly.)

grated fresh Parmesan cheese

In a medium to large pot or stock pot, combine tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, oregano, red pepper, and chicken stock. Drizzle with olive oil. Bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for about 5-7 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until the tomatoes and stock begin to reduce. Add in the pasta. Stir and cover the pot. Continue to stir every 2 minutes until the pasta is cooked and about 2 inches of liquid remains in the pot. Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

 

 

A Perfect Summer Strawberry Treat

I first read about these crisp bars on Smitten Kitchen’s blog, where she describes them as ah-ma-zing. Then, my friend made them and said they were delicious. I remained unconvinced. But, I had all the ingredients, and was desperately needing to do something with all the rhubarb that my mom had given me from her garden. So I gave them a shot. Yum.

DSC03727

It’s a perfect combo of rhubarb and strawberries, with a nice bit of sweetness and crunch. Plus, they are made with oatmeal, so they’re practically healthy. Right? Of course, since we eat these for dessert, they pair well with some creamy vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream.

Continue reading

Parmesan and Garlic Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

photo 1-22

I almost didn’t share this recipe, because it seems so easy and obvious, that probably you’ve already tried something like it. But if you haven’t, you MUST. Our CSA box included two unusual varieties of cauliflower and broccoli – cheddar cauliflower and purple broccoli. Cheddar cauliflower does not taste like cheese. (It’s ok that I was momentarily disappointed about this, right?) It’s just regular cauliflower with extra beta carotene, so it’s orange in color. Purple broccoli is apparently more common in Europe; in fact, I could only find information on it from websites in Great Britain. I think it tastes the same as green broccoli, but the texture is more tender. In my opinion, the best part of these non-traditional varieties is clearly their color – purple and orange veggies for dinner look so pretty!

Continue reading

Pan Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Asparagus and Peas

Dinnertime seems to be happening later and later at our house. There is nothing quite like trying to get food cooked – and not burnt – while my 7 month old guy is having a full meltdown over his inability to crawl, or pull books out of a basket, or, sometimes, nothing at all. So mostly, I ignore dinner and try to keep the little guy occupied and happy until bath and bedtime – and then, finally, get some food made for us.

This recipe has been a go-to springtime recipe here, because I can get it prepped earlier in the day and (as long as I time it correctly) get it started and cooking while providing some entertainment for the little one! (Full disclosure: I have burnt dinner this way….)  Although it takes a little bit of time to actually cook, and you DO have to keep an eye on it, its “simpleness to tastiness” ratio is, in my opinion, very high. Plus, you cook it all in only one pan!

DSC03723 Continue reading

Asian Lettuce Wraps

In this house, we have been eating salads nightly. Our weekly boxes have been full of leafy greens – red and green romaine, green and red leaf lettuce, spring mixes, frisee… There’s nothing like eating a fresh, crisp salad while I wait for dinner to cook. And there’s nothing easier than grilling a piece of chicken, chopping up some lettuce and other veggies, and calling it dinner. As much as we’ve enjoyed these nightly salads, I was excited to stumble across a new way to use some of our weekly lettuce share. I actually found this recipe on a friend’s Pinterest page – and if you’ve ever attempted to make something off of a Pinterest idea, you may know that it’s a mixed bag. We love Asian food (or Asian-American food, as this may be), and I had the ingredients on hand, so I decided to give it a go.

DSC03691

Continue reading

Asian Pancakes with Kale and Other Veggies

Maybe it’s something to be ashamed of, and maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but I am really not a fan of kale. I know that it’s apparently a very healthy thing to eat (people give it credit for everything from lowering cancer risk to making your hair shiny!), but healthiness alone will likely never convince me to eat anything. (More on this when we reach brussels sprouts season….) An internet recipe search implies to me that the most popular ways to eat kale are: blended up in some kind of green smoothie, braised or roasted in the manner of these collard greens, or baked as chips. I was not thrilled about these choices, so when I stumbled on Smitten Kitchen’s Japanese Vegetable Pancakes, I felt this was the perfect solution to my “kale problem.”

DSC03668

Continue reading