Tag Archives: comfort food

Fairytale Pumpkin Soup with Shiitake “Bacon”

9 Nov

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Tis the season for pumpkin soup! My friend Lizzette gave me a ~*fairytale pumpkin*~ (look it up) the other week and it was almost too beautiful to eat. But, because I don’t like to waste food, I hacked the pretty pumpkin into quarters and scooped out the seeds, cleaned and roasted the seeds and baked the pumpkin quarters with olive oil until super soft. Tip: whenever you make a winter squash or pumpkin soup, the flavor is so much better if you have time to roast the squash/pumpkin instead of boil it.

This fairytale pumpkin was absolutely gorgeous outside and inside. The inside flesh was a kind of vibrant orange that almost looked fake. Stunning. Continue reading

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Home Fries aka “Home-Roasted Potatoes”

10 Mar

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It seems that over the last several months, I have been on a quest to hash and home fry (and “spatchcock”) every potato that crosses my kitchen. Well here I am at it again with more breakfast potatoes in tow. These home fries are scientifically proven to be good, Cook’s Illustrated told me so.

While there may seem like a lot of steps in this recipe, these scientific home fries are actually quite hands-off compared to Continue reading

Home Fries

28 Jul

My friend and her family generously gave me some of their surplus potatoes and home-grown herbs and onions a few days ago. When I got home, I set to work steeping an ample bunch of lemon balm leaves with lemon verbena tea bags to make a pitcher of iced tea. Then, I graced my kitchen with cilantro-studded home fries.

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When I lived in the Bay Area, I used to be okay with battling the crowds and going out for a big weekend brunch complete with eggs, home fries, maybe a muffin, and always coffee.

Oh, New York. Why does it seem like every brunch place here serves french fries with eggs? There is the occasional potato pancake or limp hash-brown, but rarely, if ever, a home fry. Maybe I just live in the wrong part of town for home fries? If anyone out there has a good spot for New York City breakfast potatoes, let me know. Until then, you can find me in my kitchen on weekend mornings, creating what I feel is a proper weekend breakfast.

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The trick to making these home fries at home is to use the microwave (if you do not have a microwave, you can boil your potatoes first). Wash the potatoes, chop the potatoes, and place the potatoes covered in the microwave. This gets them par-cooked before they hit the pan to get crispy outside and remain soft inside.

The second trick is to cook the onion separately from the potatoes and to add the onion back in at the end. Since the potatoes cook much longer than the onion, taking the onion out and then adding the onion back at the end prevents the pieces from charring.

Naturally, home fries are excellent with eggs. If the season is right, I recommend slicing some baby tomatoes in half, salting them, and mixing them in with the eggs. I scrambled my eggs, but a poached or a flipped egg  with the runny yolk seeping into the potatoes is another option. If you are not into eggs, home fries + beans or home fries + fish or home fries + sausage or home fries + salad are a few of many ideas.

Sprinkle with a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Hot sauce optional.

Home Fries

recipe from the always reliable and lovely Smitten Kitchen

makes about 4 servings

You can use all butter, or you can use a mix of canola oil and butter. I dialed down the butter slightly compared to the original recipe. Like me, start with less, and add more if you like. 

1 1/2 pounds potatoes

1 onion, chopped

3 tablespoons butter, divided (or a mix of butter and canola oil)

salt and pepper, to taste

optional: fresh cilantro

Arrange potatoes in large microwave-safe bowl or large plate, top with 1/2 tablespoon butter, and cover with another plate. Microwave on high until edges of potatoes begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes, shaking (without removing the cover plate) to redistribute potatoes halfway through cooking.

Meanwhile, melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in large skillet (I used non-stick) over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter (or do half butter half canola oil) in the now empty skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and pack down with spatula. Cook, without moving, until underside of potatoes is brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn potatoes, pack down again, and continue to cook until well browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring potatoes every few minutes, until crusty and golden on all sides, 9 to 12 minutes (at this point, if you are making eggs to go with your potatoes, start them now). Stir in onion and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cilantro, if using.

Whole Wheat “Mac” and Cheese Bake with Bread Cube Topping

5 Apr

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What to do when you have a nearly full jug of milk in the fridge and you have to use it before it goes bad? Mac and cheese.

I tried to balance the heaviness of a dish like mac and cheese by using whole wheat pasta and 1% low fat milk instead of whole milk. Serve with lots of colorful veggies to further balance out the full-fat creamy delicious cheeses, butter pats, and bread cube topping.

I roasted carrots and parsnips in the oven (cover them for the first 15 minute so they get nice and tender and glazed). For the broccoli, I rinsed it, and with the water still clinging, placed it on a plate , covered it with another plate, and steamed it in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes. And for fun, I sliced a few quick-pickled kirby cucumbers. Veggie Love!

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Not pictured, but leftovers reheat well with a little hot sauce dabbed on top!

Whole Wheat “Mac” and Cheese Bake with Bread Cube Topping

adapted from Smitten Kitchen, Originally from Martha Stewart

Serves 5-6

1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons), divided

3 thick slices bread (I used sourdough), crusts removed (I like to nibble on the crusts later, so I save them!), cut into bite-sized cubes

2 3/4 cups milk (I used 1% low fat milk)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon course salt

pinch of each: ground black pepper, fresh grated nutmeg, old bay

roughly 3 cups shredded cheese: I used a mix of Gruyere cheese and a fancy smoked Gouda (cheddar is more classic mac and cheese)

1/2 pound whole wheat pasta (I used fusilli)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a pie dish or 8 in x 8 in pan; set aside. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the bread cubes aside.

2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, old bay, 2 1/2 cups  of the cheeses. Set the sauce aside.

5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta until the outside is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the pasta to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the pasta into the reserved cheese sauce.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining  1/2 cup cheese and the bread cubes over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes (or until browned). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

Anyway Icebox Cake

25 Dec

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Who knew whipped cream and cookies could become cake and frosting overnight?! The cookies soften as the whipped cream works it’s magic. Amazing.

This is now my secret-weapon-cake for when I’m short on time (aka I have a party to attend immediately after a big final).

You could mix in some jam between the layers, or some pudding, or Nutella or peanut butter. I just kept it simple with cookies and cream. Ginger cookies felt right for the season.

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This would be a great summer cake, too, because there is no need to turn on the oven. *Imagine* Berries with shortbread and whipped cream, or peaches with a drizzle of bourbon-caramel and cream. très bon!

Anyway Icebox Cake

Wafer cookies (I used Anna’s ginger thins), about 40 wafers, or 1.5 5.25-oz packages

Heavy cream, about 2 cups

Powdered sugar, about 1-2 tablespoons

Vanilla (Citrus Zest would be nice, too!), about 1 teaspoon

With an electric mixer or a whisk, beat the cream until it begins to thicken and the whisk leaves a trail. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until the cream is thick, nearly doubling in volume, and forms medium-firm peaks.

On a flat plate, arrange 5 cookies side by side in a circle, and place 1 cookie in the center.

Spread with about 1/2 cup whipped cream, making a circle. Repeat with remaining cookies and cream, making about 7 layers of cookies. You can choose to end with a layer of cream or end with a layer of cookies. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, the cookies will have softened, acting like regular cake. So easy. So good.

Mushroom Pepperoni and Mozz. Pizza with Mike’s Hot Honey

20 Dec

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Me, hovering over the stovetop to snap a picture before I dive into the pizza

There’s a bottle of Mike’s Hot Honey sitting on my desk. Honey spiked with vinegar and chiles.

This spicy honey begs to swirled on cheesy pizza and if there’s bits of oven-toasted cured meat, even better. (For more food pairings, look here).

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I made a quick, no-knead dough with a mix of bread flour and whole wheat flour. Olive oil and a dash of cornmeal go onto the baking sheet before the dough to get a nice crust with color and texture.

The dough recipe makes enough for two pizza pies.

Sauce, fresh mozz, mushrooms, pepperoni, Parmesan, fresh oregano. Top with lots of honey. Enjoy with a big salad (whoops, not pictured, but this meal definitely calls for a big salad).

I had extra toppings leftover, so I just toasted some regular, whole wheat bread, spread it with the toppings, and popped it in the oven for 10 minutes. Another easy option if you don’t want to make the dough recipe.

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Mushroom Pepperoni and Mozz Pizza with Mike’s Hot Honey

For the dough recipe, I used Joy’s version, which was based on Tracy’s version, which was originally from Jim Lahey’s book (it makes enough for 2 pizzas. You can freeze one or save it for the next day). I found the dough to be very shaggy. It ended up working, though, so just let it do it’s thing. I had to knead it one or two times to get it how I wanted.

**NOTE: This dough recipe needs about 2.5 hours to do it’s thing before it can go in the oven. Give yourself enough time if you are making your own dough.

Toppings (for 1 pizza): 

3/4 cup sauce

3-4 oz ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced

4 oz mushrooms, sliced

1/8 pound thin sliced pepperoni, cut into wedges or strips (I found pepperoni at the Whole Foods Deli, from Chestnut Valley Charcuterie)

1/2 cup Parmesan, shredded or grated

Toppings after the oven: fresh oregano, red pepper flakes, spicy honey

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 450-500 degrees F.

Oil a 13×18-inch rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, and sprinkle cornmeal over the oil. Place the 1 of the 2 dough balls on the pan and stretch and press the dough out into a flat rectangle.  If the dough springs bag as you’re pressing it out, simply wait five minutes to allow the dough to rest and then try again.  The dough should be very thin. If the dough tears, don’t worry, just press it back together.

Top the dough with sauce, cheeses, mushrooms, and pepperoni.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the edges are charred and bubbling.  Remove from the oven.  Allow to cool for a few moments then slice and top with fresh oregano, red pepper flakes, and spicy honey.  Serve immediately, with a big salad.

Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon

24 Jul

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Every few weeks, I gather my pennies and buy a nice piece of meat from my happy farmer’s market vendors. I like the challenge of picking out a random cut and learning to cook it with love. If I am going to spend the money on a well-raised meat product, I want to cook it up special.

I recently picked up some stew beef (before that was lamb merguez sausages for a spicy pasta dish. woah!). For a week, the stew beef sat in the freezer as I threw around ideas on what to make with it. My farmer’s market vendor mentioned beef carnitas, which sounded like a nice way to ring in the summer–a meal of beef carnitas, charred tortillas, avocados galore, and summer tomatoes.

But somehow I got hooked on the idea of a simmering beef stew. Yes, a simmering beef stew, in the middle of July. I guess I like to torture myself (see: last year’s carrot cake with cream cheese frosting). On the other hand, all of the food magazines (and fashion, too!) are prepping for their winter issues in the middle of summer, so I am simply blending in with the crowd on that front.

After flipping through recipes and asking trusted cooks well versed in meat, beef bourguignon was the answer. But alas, I don’t have a Dutch oven. My roommate, however, has a slow cooker, and it was high time I thought to use it.

To help me get in the mood, I watched this video all the way through at least twice, maybe more (oh hush!).

This recipe is involved. But having the slow cooker do most of the actual cooking helps out a ton. I divided the cooking process into 2 days. Day 1 was my slow cooking of the beef. On day 2, I re-heated the beef in the slow cooker and added in sautéed mushrooms and pearl onions, and some more red wine!

I served my beef bourguignon with lightly buttered egg noodles and a rustic romaine salad with some slivered almonds. And some bread on the side, with olive oil and salt for dipping and sprinkling.

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Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon

serves 6, adapted from the infamous Julia Child, and an Epicurious Slow-Cook recipe

**I used less meat than Julia recommends. Why? Because meat can get expensive, and using less of it is better for me, you, the animals, and the environment. 1 1/2 pounds of meat can stretch to feed a lot of people when it is bulked up with delicious buttery vegetables and red wine sauce. A little meat + a lot of veg=my idea of a great meal.

For the Slow-Cooked Beef: 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 lbs stew beef, cut into rustic cubes

1 large carrot, peeled and sliced

1 medium onion, sliced

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cloves minced garlic

1 bay leaf

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup red wine (I used a beaujolais wine)

salt and pepper, to taste

For the Braised Pearl Onions:

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

18-24 pearl onions, peeled (I used frozen ones and defrosted them before cooking)

1/2 cup of chicken broth or red wine

For the Sautéed Mushrooms:

2 tablespoons of butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 lb of mushrooms

Directions: 

Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the stew beef and sauté until browned on all sides. Place the browned beef in the slow cooker pot.

In the same pan, add a dash more oil and sauté the onion and carrot for about 5 minutes. Add the flour, tomato paste, garlic, and bay leaf and sauté for 1 minute more. Add the broth and wine and stir. Pour this mixture into the slow cooker pot with the beef. Cover and cook on low setting for 7-8 hours.

Once the meat is tender, pour the contents of the slow cooker pot into a sieve set over a saucepan. Return the contents back to the slow cooker pot.

**At this point, you can let the beef mixture and the sauce cool and set it in the refrigerator overnight. If you are eating right away, continue with the rest of the recipe.

Skim the fat, if any, off of the top of the sauce. Slowly heat the sauce until it thickens slightly. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Follow the directions for the pearl onions and mushrooms. Once they are sautéed and ready, add them to the slow cooker meat mixture with the reduced sauce and cook on low for 1-2 hours.

Finishing touches may include a cup or so more of red wine, salt and pepper, more garlic….

Serve over buttered egg noodles.

For the Pearl Onions: 

Heat the butter and oil in a skillet. Once bubbling, add the peeled onions and sauté for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

Pour in the 1/2 cup of broth or wine. Simmer slowly for about 15 minutes.

For the Mushrooms:

Place a skillet over high heat with butter and oil. As soon as you see the butter foam subsiding, indicating the pan is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4-5 minutes. During the sauté the mushrooms will first absorb the fat. In 2-3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.