Sunday, October 14, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Pumpkin Pancakes {and other Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Favorites}

I had been craving butternut squash something fierce when Deb asked me what ingredient/dish we should chose for our Monthly Featured Ingredient/Dish challenge over at I Heart Cooking Clubs. I was having dreams about some of my all-time favorite squash recipes (see below).

As soon as we agreed that orange squash was to be the ingredient I knew instantly what I would make. Something I've been wanting to make for ages, Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese. I was all set to make it and copy of Ruth's My Kitchen Year arrived in the mail and it stole my heart.

"Mysterious misty morning. Crows wheeling, cawling. Storm is on the way. 
Coffee black. Egg fried. Toast burnt.
Gourmet's over. What now?" -Ruth Reichl, My Kitchen Year

I am now convinced that Ruth's cookbook, My Kitchen Year, is something every cook should own. I intended to simply flip through it and jot down recipes, but the writing is so compelling. I was pulled in straight away and read every page, start to finish. My Kitchen Year is so much more than a cookbook. It's the story of how Ruth overcame the end of an era, the shuttering of Gourmet magazine. Anyone who has ever suffered a great loss will identify with this book. Anyone who believes in kitchen therapy will love this book. Five pages in I knew I was holding something special. A cookbook that I can easily say is one of my all-time favorites, which is saying something because I a whole room of them.

So Ruth's Pumpkin Pancakes it is! Fluffy pumpkin pancakes that are light as a cloud with a beautiful orange hue and a subtle touch of pumpkin flavor. Ruth calls for the egg yolks to be mixed with the pumpkin puree and other liquids while the egg whites are beaten to a stiff peak and folded in later. This ensures a light tender pancake that goes down easily and doesn't weigh you down. Ruth also calls for all the typical pumpkin spices: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Oftentimes I feel as though pumpkin gets drowned out by all the spices, so I opted to use only a light touch of cinnamon. The end result was just as I had hoped: a mild tender pancake with a subtle pumpkin flavor! I garnished Ruth's Pumpkin Pancakes with some premium maple syrup, butter, and candied pecans. It was heaven on a plate.

"Gray skies. Rain. Fluffy sweaters and fluffy pancakes.
Warm butter. Real maple syrup. Candied pecans. Fall is here."

Ruth Reichl's Pumpkin Pancakes
Adapted from My Kitchen Year
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 4 to 6

3/4 cups pumpkin puree
1-1/4 cups flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
4 eggs
8 tablespoons butter
1-1/4 cups milk
dash of vanilla

Note: Ruth says to add 1/4 teaspoons ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. However, I'm not a fan of spicy pumpkin, so I opted to go the more mild route, using only cinnamon. You will want to make sure you are using pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling as this would make your pancakes too sweet.

In a fairly large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, and baking powder. Stir in a small amount (about 1/4 teaspoon) of each of the following spices: cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Add a pinch of cloves and a bit of salt.  *See my note above.*

Separate the eggs, putting theyolks into a small bowl and the whites into a larger one. Beat the whites with clean beaters until they're beginning to hold stiff peaks, and set aside.

Melt the butter (this recipe will also work with a mere 4 tablespoons of butter - but it won't be as good), and stir it into the egg yolks, along with the pumpkin puree, the milk, and just a dash of vanilla. Stir the blendedliquids carefully into the flour mixture.

Fold the whites into the flour and pumpkin mixture. 

Heat a griddle, slick it with oil or butter, and cook the pancakes at the size that you like best. I tend to like these better when they're on the small side. Serve with maple syrup. 

This week we are all about Orange Squash at I Heart Cooking Clubs. As soon as fall hits I crave butternut squash and pumpkin pie something fierce. In the past few weeks I've had Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese, Butternut Squash soup, Butternut Squash Parmigiana, Butternut Squash Tomato Sauce with pasta, Pumpkin Chai Bread, and several slices of Pumpkin Pie and all of it has left me wanting more. 

Here are my all-time favorite Orange Squash recipes. If you're into Orange Squash, then I highly suggest trying these out!

Click on the recipe titles to link to the original post

THIS IS NOT ONLY MY FAVORITE ORANGE SQUASH RECIPE, BUT IT IS HANDS DOWN ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE RECIPES! I can't explain how good this one is. Ironically, both of my butternut recipes in this roundup are Ina Garten recipes based off Ottolenghi recipes. That should tell you about all you need to know because Ottolenghi is known for his mind-blowing combinations of flavor and texture. This dish is a prime example of that. It's crunchy, creamy, chunky, sweet, savory, bright, and simply full of flavor. It's got everything a dish could have and then some.

This is the perfect appetizer to make for any fall get together. I love the brilliant orange color and all the fun toppings on the hummus. Creamy butternut squash hummus adorned with chunks of roasted butternut squash, roasted squash seeds, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a scattering of pretty green parsley. It is simply a masterpiece of a dish!

If pumpkin pie is something you make over the holidays, then I would encourage you to try Donna Hay's Pumpkin Pie with Brown Sugar Mascarpone Cream. It is a very light pumpkin pie, perfect for enjoying after a heavy Thanksgiving dinner, and then there's the Brown Sugar Mascarpone Cream...need I say more?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves

Today marks the beginning of a six-month cooking adventure with Ruth Reichl. I ordered Ruth's The Gourmet Cookbook, which is the largest cookbook I own, at over 1000 pages and over 1000 recipes. The cookbook is so big it's funny. My 11-year-old son says, "Wow, mom. You're like the biggest food nerd ever." Every time he sees me with it he tells me, "If you read that whole book then I'm gonna expect you to know everything there is to know about food."

 I've spent hours pouring through the book and I still haven't been able to look through it completely, which is saying something. It is simply enormous and full of great recipes and quite simply, I adore it. I highly recommend it to all avid home cooks.

I'm in a fit of laughter today because out of this ginormous cookbook full of recipes I've chosen to share Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves first. How does that happen?

Let me explain. I started a list of all the Ruth recipes I wanted to make and as usual, it became quite long. I was thinking about starting my adventure with a pasta dish like Macaroni and Cheese or Four-Cheese Pasta, but then I started to think about how I was going to make a pasta dish next week. Then I thought about making a dip, but then I remembered I was making one the week after. So, in an effort to make something completely different and unlike my next few posts, I opted for this Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves and I'm so glad I did!

The nuttiness of Parmesan is wonderfully paired alongside walnuts. Then the Parmesan and the walnuts are coated with a light touch of mayo, lemon juice, and olive oil, as well as finely diced celery and parsley. You've got a bit of everything as far as texture and flavor go. It's chewy and crunchy and bright and flavorful. The slight bitterness of the endive leaves makes it the perfect vehicle for the nutty sweetness of the Parmesan and walnuts.

This is really one amazing appetizer! More importantly, I think this is an appetizer than almost anyone would love. It's healthy, vegetarian, and light yet delicious. I think that goes a long way at parties these days. I can see the plate being wiped clean every time. Thanks to Ruth for an amazing recipe that will be a new go to!

Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Makes about 25 Hors D'oeuvres

1 small garlic clove
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise*
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (6-ounce) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano, sliced 1/8" thick and cut into 1/8" dice
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 Belgian endives, trimmed and leaves separated

*Note: It's worth sourcing a very good Parmigiano for this recipe. Also, make sure your walnuts are fresh as they can go rancid if they languish in your pantry (I store mine in the refrigerator). When I typed up this recipe I realized that I omitted the olive oil by accident. This makes sense because my salad became dry when it sat and I had to add in a touch more mayo and lemon juice. I bet the olive oil would've loosened things up a touch more. If not, feel free to add a little more olive oil, lemon juice, and/or mayo before serving. Also, I found the leaves were great served with a wedge of lemon for drizzling right before eating. Word to the wise, I did season the dish with a touch of salt and pepper. I love salt and use it liberally. I held back on the salt in this recipe and was happy I did. I think it can quickly become too salty.

Using a large knife, mince and mash garlic to a paste with salt. Whisk together garlic paste, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and oil in a medium bowl. Stir in cheese and celery, then stir in walnuts, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate, covered for at least 3 hours to allow flavors to develop. Mound 1 tablespoon salad onto wide end of each endive leaf. Arrange on a platter and serve.

Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen

Saturday, September 29, 2018

My Top Five Eric Ripert Dishes!

It was fun six months cooking with Eric Ripert. Here are my top FIVE favorite Eric Ripert recipes, in no order!

I can't usually find figs, but I went through the trouble of sourcing them out to make these beautifully grilled figs. Grilling any fruit makes for a wonderfully caramelized coating that is super tasty all on its own, but when you had a fluffy and cloudlike honey-mascarpone cream, and a crunchy amaretti crumble, then you have perfection!

I didn't realize that I could have a delicious dessert with such humble ingredients. You can make a clafoutis with very humble pantry ingredients and a handful of fruit. I really loved these raspberry clafoutis, but you can make a clafoutis with any fruit, which is what I plan to do. I especially enjoyed these with a dollop of vanilla yogurt. My new go-to dessert!

Who doesn't love a cheesy potato puff? These are perfect as a side dish, an appetizer, or entertaining. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't love them!

Ripert's Shrimp with Orzo, Tomatoes, and Ginger is a delicious and light dinner that is perfect for a hot summer night! Loved it!

With my produce from the Farmer's Market at the Castle, I made Eric Ripert's Pesto and tossed it with some Fettuccine, Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, Marinated Fresh Mozzarella, and the most beautiful purple basil. It was a fresh and colorful summer delight! One that I will crave until I can make it again next summer!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Jacques Pepin's Potatoes Fondantes

One of the lessons I've learned is to ALWAYS trust a Frenchman with your potatoes. I mean seriously now, they know their way around a potato, or two. This recipe for Jacques Pepin's Potatoes Fondantes will go down as being one of THE BEST potato recipes around, which is saying something.

After I tasted these I was actually kinda mad. In a "Why didn't I discover these potatoes sooner" kinda way. I mean the recipe is so simple, yet when you're putting it together you just know that it will be delicious, without a doubt.

Think about it. Baby Yukon potatoes simmering in a bath of chicken stock and butter until all the liquid is absorbed and the potatoes are creamy and tender. Then you press them with a back of a ladle, just until they pop, and the butter that was absorbed into the potatoes is enough to lightly brown them on each side. I don't care what herb you top them with, they are simply delectable! Crispy on the outside, creamy and flavorful on the inside. The perfect side dish. One that is so easy, and so delicious, you will be making it over and over again. A reminder that food need not be complicated, or fussy, to be delicious. Do me a favor and don't miss out on these!

Potatoes Fondantes
Adapted from Food Network
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 4-6

3 pounds baby Yukon potatoes
salt and black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter *
2 to3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves*

Notes: I needed a little more chicken stock by accident and it didn't all boil out so I had to ladle out about a cup. I also used about 5 tablespoons butter because I was worried that when I removed some of the stock I was removing some of the butter, so I added in another two tablespoons. You could definitely garnish with parsley leaves, but I was in the mood for chives, so I opted to use them instead.

Place the potatoes in a deep skillet and add salt and pepper, to taste. Cover potatoes halfway with chicken stock, about 3 cups, add the butter and cover skillet with a lid. Cook the potatoes in the stock until almost tender, about 5 to 8 minutes, depending upon the size of the potatoes. Remove the lid and allow the stock to evaporate, about another 5 minutes. Once the stock has evaporated pop each potato using a ladle or large spoon, creating a small crack in each, but do not smash. Allow the potatoes to brown on each side, another 5 minutes, and re-season with salt and pepper, if necessary or desired. Remove the browned potatoes from the skillet and place onto a serving platter, garnished with the parsley or herb of your choice.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Giada's Lentil and Hominy Chili

"Losing My Religon" was playing in the car for the third time that week. Funny enough, I hadn't heard the song in almost 20 years and now I'd heard it for the 3rd time that week. It felt strange. I sent a text to a friend that said "Losing My Religion is a fabulous song. I hadn't heard it in years and forgot how much I love it. It's definitely one of my all time favorites." She replied back, "Great song. Definitely a top favorite, but I never knew what it was really about. It has to mean something that you keep hearing it so much this week, yet you haven't heard it in years. I'm gonna look it up."

At first I didn't really believe that hearing the song so many times in one week meant anything, but I did want to know what the song was about. When she wrote back "Losing My Religion is a southern expression for losing one's civility or temper and/or being at the end of one's rope," it all suddenly made sense. If you've read my past two posts then you know that I've definitely been at the end of my rope lately.

Problem is, after exchanging those texts with her, things just seemed to get worse. More 12 hour work days, sick kids, doctor visits, football games, band concerts, probate issues, and issue upon issue compounded to the max, all building up to the anniversary of my mom's death. It weighs on you. You do what you can and then you reach a breaking point where you just throw your hands up in the air and let it all go.

I'm all done with letting it overwhelm me. I'm too busy playing my new theme song, "Losing My Religon" and getting back in the kitchen. I swear the kitchen is like therapy. This week instead of saying "I just can't," I just did. I made Chicken Paprikash, which is something I'd been wanting to try, and I even got around to making this chili, and guess what? I even enjoyed it!

Giada's Lentil and Hominy Chili is a vegetarian delight. The lentils really make this chili hearty and comforting, and the hominy, well, I just love that stuff. It's fragrant, it's chewy, it just pops in your mouth and it's just plain fun to eat. I have NO idea why it's not more popular. However, I do feel like what makes this chili are the toppings, especially the lime juice. The squeeze of lime really brightens things up and brings all the flavors together. The avocado adds a lovely creamy quality and the cilantro...well I just love that too. The cotija cheese is the only topping that I felt kind of blah about. I could take it or leave it. Honestly, this chili is about the only chili that doesn't need cheese. Make it and try it for yourself. It's a delicious bowl of comfort, whether you're losing your religion, or not!

Lentil & Hominy Chili
Adapted from Food Network
by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4 

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 jalapeno, ribs removed and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup lentils, picked through, soaked and rinsed *
1-1/2 cups brown ale, such as Turbodog
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
One 15-ounce can hominy, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
lime wedges, optional*

*Note  (Soaking Your Lentils): You will need to soak your lentils before you start cooking. To do so, place the picked-through lentils in a fine mesh strainer and rinse them well. Place them in a medium bowl and cover them with water so they are fully submerged by 1 inch of water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 14 hours. Drain and rinse the lentils again before using. OR, you can do like the video online indicates and soak your lentils in a bowl of water for 25 minutes, which is what I did.

*Note: You do not want to skip the lime juice in this recipe. The squeeze of lime is what brightens up the flavors and brings it all together.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the oil and diced onion. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic, jalapeno, yellow and red peppers and continue to cook, stirring often, for an additional 4 minutes.  Add the chili powder, cumin, and salt and stir until the mixture is fragrant. Add the lentils, beer, tomatoes, and 1-1/4 cup water and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and simmer for 25 minutes. Uncover the chili and add the hominy. Continue to cook uncovered until the chili has thickened slightly and the lentils are cooked through, about 15 minutes more. Serve topped with the cilantro, avocado, and cotija cheese. Finish with a squeeze of lime if desired.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Eric Ripert's French-Style Scrambled Eggs {Oh yes, I Did}

Right now you're thinking, no she didn't. No, she didn't just make scrambled eggs and post it like it was a solid contribution. But, yes, yes I did and there are two reasons why.

Number One. I just can't. Yes, I just can't again!

Number Two. I love eggs. For real. They just might be one of my very favorite ingredients. Plus, this week over at I Heart Cooking Clubs we are cooking with the ingredients we love.

So, yes, I did make Eric Ripert's French-Style Scrambled Eggs and I'm not sorry in the least! 

What makes these scrambled eggs French-Style you ask? Well, it's simply a method of adding the cream to the pan when the eggs are somewhat set. Here in America, we tend to add cream to the eggs before we cook them in the pan. Do I have to tell you whose method is better? I mean you already know, right?

The French, after all, are masters of the egg. Their method of adding the cream once the eggs are set produces a softer, fluffier, moister egg than our American version.

Here in America, most of us add a splash of milk and/or cream to our eggs before we cook them. Our eggs are a touch drier and tend to take on a bit of a rubbery texture, lacking in moisture. Now, I'm by no means knocking this traditional American method. I love all eggs, but after making scrambled eggs in the French-Style, I will tell you that I prefer the French method much more.

Now, full disclosure here. When I make scrambled eggs I usually add the smallest little pea-sized speck of butter to my nonstick pan. I whisk the tar out of my eggs until they are foamy and then I add a small splash of milk or cream. I add them to a hot pan and cook them until they are dry because this is the only way my family will eat them. They seize up and become somewhat tough.

I definitely suggest that you try this version. Go ahead and indulge. Use all the butter. Use all the cream. Then get a piece of bread and don't be stingy with the butter. You are having an indulgent version of scrambled eggs with toast and trust me, this is true comfort food. Rich, delicious, buttery, soft and fluffy and trust me when I will keep you full for hours upon hours.

French-Style Scrambled Eggs
by Eric Ripert
Serves 1 or 2

3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped chives
2 slices country bread, toasted*

In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Add the eggs and cook, whisking, until they begin to set; gently whisk in the milk and chives. Remove from the heat and serve with toasted bread and butter.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Giada's Antipasti In Jars

I used to have one warning phrase for my family and they understood perfectly what it meant. If at any time I announced "I'm done", they understood this to mean they should only come to me if there was an emergency.

In the past month, I've graduated. I've hit a whole new level of being done.  It's called "I just can't" and it's way more serious than "I'm done." 

"I just can't" means I simply CANNOT do one more thing. "I just can't" is full of eye rolls and death stares and other nefarious types of body language.

I've never been an "I just can't" kind of person and I never used to understand how one becomes that way. Until now.

The person who just can't has been pushed and pushed to the total and complete brink. They've worked and they've toiled and they've gone from sunrise to sunset every day nonstop, for an extended period of time, until they simply just can't any longer. At times I thought I'd reached this point, but I was wrong. I hadn't reached it until now.

So now, I'm an "I just can't" and it's kind of an eye-opener.

Today, as I sat in rebellion of all that had to be done, I decided that today "I just wouldn't" do all the things that needed to be done. I just couldn't be bothered if the laundry is done, if the groceries are bought, if lesson plans are made, or if the kids play on their devices all day. I didn't care if the lawn was mowed, or the plants were watered, or if any of the other weekend chores were done in advance for the work week. I couldn't even be bothered to make a blog dish.

Then, as I laughed about my newfound rebellion, I remembered Giada's recipe for Antipasti In Jars and mustered just enough energy to run in the store for some olives and baby mozzarella balls. Putting antipasti in jars is something I could do, and so I did!

You could roast peppers, and buy artichokes and various other ingredients. You could create colorful layers and really go all out to make these fancy. Or, if you're feeling like me, and you simply "just can't", then you can visit the antipasti counter at your market and buy olives and cheese that are already marinated. Then simply come home and throw it all in jars. Even if you're sloppy it will still be cute.

I'm going to snack on these and take them to school for lunch this week. I'm going to try my best to stifle my laughter when people comment about "all the trouble I went to, to pack a cute lunch." The truth is I couldn't be bothered at all. I just threw stuff in jars and angrily ripped off a hunk of bread and ran out of the door to work. They'll think I have my act together. Little do they know.

Antipasti In Jars
Adapted from Giada In Italy
by Giada DeLaurentiis
Makes 2 (10-ounce) Jars

1 cup ciliegine (baby mozzarella balls)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved*
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup pitted green or black olives

*Note: Feel free to use any type of antipasti you like. I think the key point here is to marinate the ingredients and place them in jars. Roasted peppers and artichokes would be nice, as would chunks of salami or pepperoni. The sky is the limit. I opted to use some sundried tomatoes I had made in place of the grape tomatoes. 

In a small bowl, toss together the mozzarella, olive oil, salt, oregano, and red pepper flakes. In a separate bowl, toss the tomatoes with some salt and the basil. Allow both mixtures to sit for 5 minutes so the flavors can marry.

Divide the marinated mozzarella balls evenly between the two 10-ounce jars. Spoon the tomatoes over the cheese and top with the olives. Cover the jars with their lids and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 3 days.