25 November 2016

Forget the food, let's drink!

How was everyone's Thanksgiving?  Good? There are so many reasons to drink these days, and it is best done with your close friends and allies with a carby snack nearby (I like popcorn, which can be made with a drink in your hand).  These are a little fussy and require some work in the kitchen (not too much, don't worry!), so they make a great distraction from real life and serve as a fun group activity.

Tangerine-Cranberry Old Fashioned
Makes 1 drink
2.5 oz. bourbon (I used Bulleit rye)
1 tsp. cranberry simple syrup*
5-6 fresh cranberries
2 slices autumn tangerine or satsuma
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Sugared cranberries* and cinnamon stick to garnish

Muddle tangerine or satsuma and fresh cranberries in the bottom of an old fashioned glass. Add cranberry simple syrup, bitters, and bourbon. Stir briefly and add one large ice cube. Garnish with sugared cranberries on a pick and a cinnamon stick.

*You can make the sugared cranberry garnish and the cranberry simple syrup together. Combine 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar and simmer to dissolve the sugar. Add about 1/2 cup cranberries. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain, reserving both the cranberries and the syrup. Arrange half of the cranberries on parchment paper on a wire cooling rack and let sit for one hour; these will be your sugared cranberries. Return the rest to the pot with the syrup and muddle. Let sit for another 10-20 minutes and strain again, discarding the muddled berries. Once an hour has passed, pour 1/4 cup sugar onto a plate and roll the remaining cranberries in it to coat.

The Dirty Chai Nightcap
Makes 4 drinks
4 chai tea bags
1 cup filtered water
4 ounces espresso
1 cup almond milk
4 ounces whiskey
1 tablespoon maple syrup
star anise, garnish

Heat the water to almost boiling and steep the tea bags in it for 5 minutes. Discard the tea bags and cool the chai concentrate.

Make 4 ounces of espresso and cool.

Combine in a shaker the chai, espresso, milk, whiskey, and maple syrup. Strain and pour into 4 martini glasses, and top with star anise.

Apple-Ginger Martini
Makes 1 drinks
2 oz vodka
2 oz apple-ginger-lime juice (recipe below)
1 teaspoon maple or honey simple syrup (made by mixing equal parts of maple syrup or honey with filtered water until fully dissolved)
Crushed ice
1 large tart green apple, cored and cut into slices (ex. granny smith)
¼ cup water
1 tablespoons grated ginger
The juice of 1 large lime
Apple slices for garnish (optional)

Make the Green Apple and Lime Juice:
Add the apple slices to a high speed blender along with the water, ginger, and lime juice and blend on high until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer pressing on the pulp to get all of the juice and set aside.

Make the Green Apple Ginger Martini:
Add the juice, the vodka and the maple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker halfway with ice and shake vigorously until the shaker turns frosty. Strain into the chilled glasses. Garnish with the reserved apple slices if desired

22 November 2016

Pre-Thanksgiving bonus: holiday flavors remix

I have posted many times over the years with my favorite traditional and slightly alternative recipes for Thanksgiving (here's last year's if you're into that sort of thing). But to be honest, I don't usually make this stuff anymore.  It's a short holiday and our families live far away, so we usually choose to spend it quietly at home eating a normal amount of food and catching up on grading and practicing.  That being said, I can't shake the annual nostalgia I feel around this time for certain flavors: wild rice, ginger bread, sage, pumpkin... So here are some ways to sprinkle some Thanksgiving dinner into your regular meals this week, or add a little variety to your big feast.

Curried Squash Galette
adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 6

1 refrigerated roll-out pie dough
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices
1 red onion, cut through the core into 1/2-inch wedges
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
salt and pepper
1/2 cup sour cream or thick plain yogurt
1/2 cup shredded Manchego, plus more for serving

Allow the pie crust to warm up slightly on the kitchen counter while you do this step:
Preheat the oven to 425°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the butternut squash and the onion with the olive oil and curry powder. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the squash is tender but not falling apart. Let cool.

Increase the oven temperature to 450°. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 14-inch round. Carefully transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Spread the sour cream over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese on top. Arrange the squash and onion, as well as the apple slices, over the sour cream and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese on top. Fold the pastry edge up and over the vegetables to create a 1 1/2-inch border.

Bake the squash galette for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is browned; let cool slightly. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, cut into wedges and serve warm.

Wild Rice and Veggie Gratin
Serves 4-6

1 bunch black kale, stemmed and washed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
8 oz. button mushrooms, washed and sliced
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 large garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
3 eggs
½ cup unflavored milk
1 cup cooked wild rice mixture
3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
¼ cup breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add a generous amount of salt and add kale. Blanch for 2 to 3 minutes, remove from the water with a deep fry skimmer or a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of cold water. Drain and, taking the greens up by the handful, squeeze hard to expel excess water. Chop medium-fine or cut in thin ribbons.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes, and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms begin to soften. Add salt to taste and continue to cook, stirring often, until the fennel is very tender and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and kale, stir together for another minute, then stir in dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in milk and salt to taste (I use about 1/2 teaspoon). Stir in kale mixture, rice and Gruyère, and combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Scrape into baking dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top if using, and drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until set and the top and sides are beginning to color. Remove from oven and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. This is good hot, warm, or room temperature.

Melissa Clark's Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread
Serves 8-10

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick/4 ounces unsalted butter
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup molasses
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together cranberries, granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Stir the cranberries over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and cranberries form a sauce that is syrupy and bubbling thickly, about 10 minutes. Aim to have about half the cranberries broken down, with the remainder more or less whole.

In a separate saucepan, stir together the butter, brown sugar, milk, maple syrup and molasses over medium heat. Bring it to just barely a simmer and then remove it from the heat. Do not let it come to a boil, or the mixture may curdle.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, baking soda and black pepper. Beat in the butter-maple syrup mixture and then beat in the eggs. Stir in the ginger.

Scrape the batter into the pan. Drop fat dollops of cranberry sauce onto the surface of the cake batter. Drag a long, slender knife through the batter in a swirly design, as if you are marbling a cake. Transfer the cake to the oven and bake it until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire baking rack and let the cake cool completely before eating it.

I just realized these are all carb-heavy dishes.  Oh well. It's winter.

18 November 2016

When in Rome...or Arkansas

I traveled with my trio to Southwest Arkansas last weekend.  The continuous deciduous forest everywhere I looked was pretty, and all the people I met were extremely nice.  I was staying in a town with a college, but no coffee shop (but three donut shops), in a county that had just gone from dry to wet in the past year, in a state that fries everything.  So, it wasn't like my usual haunts, but I nonetheless managed to eat some tasty stuff.  (I am still detoxing from the alt intake, but I hear you body needs salt, so...)

In Magnolia, AR:
Backyard Barbeque was way too much food, but crazy good. I had the pork sandwich (sliced rather than pulled, but the equally good brisket is pulled rather than sliced) with coleslaw and beans that came heaped with sausage, pepper and onions. They also keep mugs frosty in the chest freezer for one of the three beers on tap: Bud, Bud Light, and Goose IPA (?!) Apparently the pie is very good, but I don't know how I possibly could have digested it.

We went to Flying Burger several times, because they were often the only restaurant open, and they had salads.  Fried catfish, tilapia, crawdads. and shrimp can be put on salads, in po' boys or tacos, or served up on a platter with sides like greens, grilled squash, fried broccoli, beans and rice, etc. And everything comes with hush puppies, so no need to order extra.

I never made it to Marlar's Cafeteria. which gets high ratings on Yelp but was never opened when I wasn't working.  But I would have liked to have tried their chicken and dumplings with black eyed peas and greens. Another time, perhaps.  Also, the first Yelp review is a perfectly charming summation of my time in Magnolia.

Shreveport, LA:
Sadly, many restaurants, even in this booming metropolis, were not open for lunch Sunday on my way back to the airport. I can tell you that locals recommend the boudin at Bergeron's. We did manage to find an absolutely beautiful Indian buffet at Indigo Bistro, and it was heaven. The vindaloo was quite spicy and flavorful (pretty brave for a buffet, but maybe they're more hip to that sort of thing in Cajun country), tikka was surprisingly tomato-y but good, and the aloo saag was a surprising symphony of flavors. The service was welcoming and the restaurant itself was this glorious mix of Gothic Southern architecture and classic Hindu style, all cleverly disguised by its boring facade (see below) in a suburban strip mall. It's right off the loop that gets you to the airport. Go there.

PS--The staff at the Hampton Inn were so helpful that when we bought beer at Walmart because there were no bars and discovered we didn't have a bottle opener, they let us use their's for, like, three days.  Also the breakfast waffles were pretty good.

11 November 2016

Rhymes with cider

Oh. haha, it IS cider!  I love fresh apple cider in the fall, and I love to taste it in everything.

Apple Cider Chicken  

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups apple cider

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, add to pan and sear until golden, about 4 minutes each side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Add onion, apple, garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Saute until apple begins to get color and onions soften, about 6 minutes. Add flour and stir 2 to 3 minutes. Nestle chicken back into pan, add cider, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes.

Cider-Glazed Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4 as a side

2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 tablespoon olive
1 teaspoon salt
2 minced garlic cloves
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup apple cider

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Add the Brussels sprouts, oil, salt, and black pepper to a bowl and mix well. Place the Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, cut side down. Roast for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the apple cider and garlic into a skillet over medium heat. Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes, or until the cider has reduced (do not boil). Once it coats a spoon it’s done.
Add the roasted sprouts to the skillet and serve.

Bourbon Apple Cider  
Makes one drink

2 ounces bourbon
2 ounces apple cider
¼ ounce lemon juice
Dash bitters
Orange peel, for garnish
½ ounce cinnamon simple syrup
For the simple syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

Make the simple syrup: In a small sauce pan, bring the water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. The syrup can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.

To make the drink: Combine the bourbon, cider, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled then pour over ice in a glass and serve.

04 November 2016

Pumpkin lasagna is not gross!

What do you do with pumpkins besides bake them into a delicious pie?  My neighbors grow enough stuff I don't really want that I could probably make a sub-category in this blog: "recipes that were the result of unwanted produce". And so it goes with the following recipe, but I have to tell you, I am hooked now. The flavors are great, it's healthy, and like traditional lasagnas, it's very easy to make ahead and freeze (either cooked for future desk lunches are uncooked for future cooking, as directed below). 

Pumpkin Lasagna

Serves 6
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
2 crumbled Field Roast or other vegetarian sausages, optional
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup plain almond milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
black pepper
9 no-cook lasagna noodles
1 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese*
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a small skillet, saute the mushrooms, sausages, onion, spinach, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in oil until tender; set aside. In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin, cream, lemon juice, garlic, sage, pepper and remaining salt.

Spread 1/2 cup pumpkin sauce in an 11x7-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with three noodles (noodles will overlap slightly). Spread 1/2 cup pumpkin sauce to edges of noodles. Top with half of mushroom mixture, 1/2 cup ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles and sauce.

Cover and bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. 

Freeze option: Cover and freeze unbaked lasagna. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake as directed, increasing time as necessary to heat through and for a thermometer inserted in center to read 165°.

*For a vegan option, replace the shredded cheeses with dairy-free options (obvs.) and ricotta with 1 block silken tofu blended with 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast and a dash of salt.  It will be more like a white sauce in consistency, so use sparingly to avoid a runny lasagna, but leftovers can be refrigerated for up to one week and used as an Alfredo sauce over pasta!