Sunday, October 20, 2019

Ruth Reichl's Butternut Squash, Sausage, and Walnut Lasagne

When I first got my hands on Ruth Reichl's The Gourmet Cookbook, there were two recipes that jumped out at me, begging me to make them. The first was her Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves, which I made straight away, and the next was her Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagne, which I'm just now getting to because...well, it requires a lot of time and effort.

So, I've adapted this recipe for two reasons: one, I don't care for hazelnuts BUT I do love walnuts, and second, I wanted to add a little bit of sausage for flavor. Hence, Butternut Squash, Sausage, and Walnut Lasagne. I also read the reviews and decided to amp up the onion and garlic, add red pepper flakes, and add some more cheese, in the form of Gruyere. Mozzarella and Parmesan are good and all, but Gruyere belongs in this lasagne since it's nutty flavor pairs beautifully with both the walnuts and the butternut. Feel free to play with the flavors and adapt the dish how you like!

Just so you know, we're talking about layers of fresh pasta sheets covered in chunks of tender butternut squash seasoned with spicy sausage, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, walnuts, sage, and parsley; creamy bechamel sauce; and three kinds of cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Fresh Mozzarella, and Gruyere.

I mean I don't wanna get in the habit of writing love letters to chefs, but I could definitely write Ruth a love letter about this lasagne. The flavors and textures are simply incredible, friends! This is an amazing dish and one that you could definitely entertain over the autumn months.

Now, I knew that I would really like this dish, but I wasn't expecting to be bowled over with flavors and textures. While there is plenty of butternut squash in this dish it is not overwhelming in any way. You get the flavor of the butternut, along with the spicy sausage, the creamy bechamel sauce, and all the cheeses, and you wanna know what's really nice in this dish? The crunch from the walnuts. It goes a long way in creating such wonderful texture in this dish. You have both creamy and crunchy, plus little nuggets of butternut along with way. Drop the mic, folks. This is a total winner!

Thanks, Ruth, for another absolutely amazing dish!

Butternut Squash, Sausage, and Walnut Lasagne
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 6-8

For Filling:
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 pound ground sausage, spicy or another flavor
3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2" pieces
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 cup walnuts, toasted, and coarsely chopped 
any broth, optional

For Sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon or more, to taste, minced garlic
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1 Turkish bay leaf 
1 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste

For Assembling:
2 cups coarsely grated fresh mozzarella (about 8 ounces)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan-Reggiano (about 2 ounces)
1 cup grated Gruyere (optional)
12 oven-ready (no-boil) lasagne noodles or 3 or 4 fresh pasta sheets

Notes: Feel free to change up this lasagne however you see fit. I loved this with the spicy sausage, but you can definitely make this vegetarian, spicing it up with red pepper flakes, or without! 
Make the filling: Melt butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add onion and sausage (if using) cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes (if using) and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender about 15-25 minutes. (I used a little broth here and there while I was cooking the squash so that the ingredients wouldn't stick to the pan). Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Taste the mixture and make sure the flavors are where you want them. Let cool. 

Make the sauce: Preheat oven to 425F. Butter a 13x9 baking dish. Set aside. Melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes to make a roux. Add milk in a slow stream, whisking constantly.  Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. (Cover the surface of sauce with wax paper if not using immediately). 

To assemble the lasagne: Toss cheeses together in a large bowl. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered baking dish and cover with 3 lasagne noodles (or a fresh sheet of pasta), leaving space if using separate noodles (pasta will expand). Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and 1/3 of the filling, then sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese.  Top with more noodles, 2/3 cup sauce, 1/3 filling, 1/3 cheese. Repeat layering one more time, using the remaining ingredients. Don't fret.  None of this needs to be exact!

To bake: Tightly cover the baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagne for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more.  Let lasagne stand for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with sage and/or parsley, if desired and enjoy!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Mark Bittman's Minimalist Buffalo Wings {The Very Best Buffalo Wings}

So my family is absolutely crazy for chicken wings. We eat them at least once a week. Years ago I tried a Nigel Slater version where he roasts the wings in the oven and this roasting method became my go-to method for chicken wings. The roasted wings are crispy without the mess of frying, and I feel that roasting the chicken helps to bring out the flavor of the chicken, much more than frying would. Roasting wings is a very good method.

However, I stumbled upon Mark Bittman's Minimalist Buffalo Wings recipe this week and wanted to give his broiling method a try. I could write a letter about them. In fact, I think I will.

Dear Mr. Bittman,

I thought I had perfected making chicken wings. My family and I really enjoyed them roasted in the oven with a simple dusting of Lawry's. They flew off the pan and I could never seem to make enough.

Then I tried your method of broiling the chicken wings and my family came unglued. We turned into wild animals, fighting over each wing until they were gone. I'm not kidding, Mark. Have you ever seen one of those documentaries where wild animals fight over their prey? The scene in my kitchen was very much like that. In fact, my children nearly attacked each other over your wings, Mark.

We blame this behavior on "the trifecta of deliciousness": the most incredible buffalo sauce (buttery and garlicky with just the right amount of heat);  the crispiest exterior a buffalo wing has ever had (truly the broiler method is the best), and the juiciest most delicious chicken meat on the inside. I mean when you take a bite and the buffalo sauce hits your lips it is lip smackin' good, then you get the crunch of the outside and bite into that juicy chicken and it is just magic, Mark. A mouth never had it so good!

Your wings are the stuff of dreams. You deserve a medal. We should shout your name from the mountaintops and we just might. Right after I make another batch.

You are our hero, Mark.
The Stirring The Pot Family

Minimalist Buffalo Wings
Adapted from Food52
by Mark Bittman
Serves 4-6, depending

3 pounds of chicken wings
Neutral oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup mild hot sauce, like Frank's Red Hot
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or white vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
blue cheese dressing or ranch, for serving
carrot sticks and/or celery sticks, for serving

Pat the wings dry very well with paper towels (this will help them crisp) and, if the wings are whole, cut them into 3 sections, saving the wing tips for stock. Toss the wings with a little neutral oil to keep them from sticking, salt them lightly, and spread them on a baking sheet, leaving at least an inch of space between each wing.

Heat the broiler with a rack 4 to 6 inches from the flame. (Alternately, heat a charcoal or gas grill; the fire should be moderately hot and the rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat. Leave one side of the grill cooler for indirect cooking.)

Broil in the oven on a sheet pan until the wings are evenly well-browned and crisp, flipping them midway through. This should take 20 to 25 minutes overall, but will depend on the strength of your broiler, so peek often! (If using the grill, put the wings on the cool side of the grill. Cover the grill and cook, checking and turning once or twice, until most of the fat has been rendered and the wings are evenly well-browned and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes.).

While the wings cook, in a large bowl, combine the hot sauce, melted butter, vinegar, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.

When the wings are browned and crisp, add them to the bowl with the sauce and toss to coat. Return the wings to the pan, leaving excess sauce in the bowl, and broil fora few minutes until sizzling and nicely browned on both sides, flipping once. (Or put the wings on the hot part of the grill and cook, uncovered, turning as necessary.)

Serve hot with the extra sauce on the side, for extra spicy, saucy wings, toss back in the sauce before serving. Blue cheese and/or ranch dressing and celery sticks and/or carrot sticks on the side are a good idea. 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Mark Bittman's Spaetzle for Oktoberfest!

I absolutely love Spaetzle! Who doesn't? Buttery little bits of's just a given. However, I never thought about making it because, well... I've become somewhat of a lazy cook and I don't like dealing with dough or special tools, like a spaetzle maker.

Well, let me tell you....never fear! This dough is super easy and you don't even need a spaetzle maker! No, all you need is a pizza baking pan with holes on the bottom! Or you can even use a pasta strainer. Who knew? Now spaetzle making is as easy as 1-2-3! Simply place the pizza pan, or strainer, over the boiling water and push that dough right through with a spatula. Spaetzle for everyone!

Now we can celebrate Oktoberfest like we should! The best part is that you probably already have every single ingredient you need, and if you don't then we need to talk, because we're talking the bare minimum ingredients here: flour, eggs, milk, butter, salt and pepper, and just about any kind of herbs for topping.

So, what on earth are you waiting for? Deliciousness awaits!

by Mark Bittman
Serves 4

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 eggs
1 cup milk, more if needed
2 to 4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
chopped fresh parsley or chives for garnish

Step One: Set a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. In a bowl, combine flour with pepper and a large pinch of salt. In a bowl, combine flour with pepper and a large pinch of salt. Lightly beat together eggs and milk, and add to the flour, stirring. If necessary, add a little more milk until the mixture has the consistency of pancake batter.

Step Two (per Mark Bittman): Scoop a tablespoon or so of batter and drop it into the water; small pieces may breakoff, but the batter should remain largely intact and form a disk. Repeat, using about one-third to one-fourth the batter, depending on the size of the pot. When spaetzle rise to the top a couple of minutes later (you may have to loosen them from the bottom, but they will pop right up), cook another minute or so, then remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl of ice water. Repeat until all the batter is used up. 

Step Two (Easier Alternative):  Instead of following Bittman's steps for forming and cooking the spaetzle I read and researched various ways, finally settling on a method that was easiest. If you have a non-stick pizza pan with holes you are all set! Simply place it over the boiling water and allow the batter to run through the holes - talk about easy! This is the perfect method for getting the perfect-sized spaetzle and also making a somewhat tedious job perfectly easy.

Step Three: Drain spaetzle; at this point you can toss them with a bit of oil and refrigerate, covered, for up to a day. Heat butter or oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. when it's hot, add spaetzle a few at a time, and quickly brown on both sides. Serve hot, garnished with parsley or chives. And, let's be real here...of course, you could use olive oil, but why on earth would you? Browned butter is the perfect accompaniment to spaetzle!

This is a helpful video if you decide to make spaetzle!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ruth Reichl's Sriracha Shrimp

I've been eyeing Ruth's Sriracha Shrimp ever since I got my copy of her cookbook, My Kitchen Year. In her cookbook, Ruth serves the Sriracha Shrimp over coconut rice, which I'm sure is delicious.  I had all the ingredients for the coconut rice, but my husband and I weren't overly hungry and we typically like our shrimp served all on its own, straight out of the pan.

With or without the rice, this is an extremely easy and flavorful dish that comes together in no time. Simply marinate the shrimp in Sriracha and a touch of lime juice. While it's marinating go ahead and cut up an onion and some garlic and ginger. Cook the aromatics until the onion is translucent and then toss in the shrimp and the marinade, stirring until the shrimp are cooked through.

You'll be enjoying a spicy and flavorful dish in no time! This is really good if you're a Sriracha fan. The shrimp aren't too spicy on their own, but if you were worried about the spice level then the coconut rice would definitely help to take some of the heat away. This was really good and easy. I can definitely see myself making it again.

Sriracha Shrimp
Adapted by My Kitchen Year
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 3-4

1 pound shrimp (thawed, shelled, and deveined)
1 lime, quartered
2-3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 small knob of ginger, peeled and diced*
2 tablespoons butter and/or oil, for frying

Place the thawed shrimp in a shallow bowl and squirt a little lime juice over them. Drizzle the shrimp with 2-3 tablespoons of Sriracha and toss to coat. Allow the shrimp to marinate for about 15 minutes.

Place butter and/or oil in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the onion, ginger, and garlic for 3-5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Turn the heat up to medium-high and toss in the shrimp and the marinade. Cook for about 2 -3 minutes, until shrimp is cooked through. Take shrimp off heat and serve immediately.  

This dish was meant to be served over coconut rice, but we weren't very hungry so we served the shrimp on their own with a little lime wedge on the side.

*Note: I left out the ginger because my husband isn't a fan.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Tessa Kiros' Apple Bread with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Topping

 Is there anything more glorious than the smell of apples and brown sugar baking away in the oven?

Grate a few of your favorite apples. We are obsessed with Honeycrisp apples, so Honeycrisp it is. Add those grated apples to a batter spiced with cardamom and cinnamon. We're talking major fall vibes here.

Top the batter with a mix of brown sugar, chopped walnuts, and cinnamon. I don't have to tell you that this topping is delicious. We all know that brown sugar is like magic. Think candied walnut topping here.

This bread is deeper in color than other classic quick breads and that's ok because again, brown sugar friends. So don't fret. The crumb holds plenty of moisture from the apples and the topping, speaks for itself. 

Apple Bread with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Topping
Adapted from Apples for Jam
by Tessa Kiros
Cuts into 10-12 slices

scant 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 pound, plus 3 tablespoons butter (11 tablespoons)
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
about 2 apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely grated
2/3 cups walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped (omitted)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 12 by 4-inch loaf pan. Beat together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs, and beat them in well. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom, and cinnamon in, and add a pinch of salt. Mix well. Add the apples, walnuts, and vanilla, and mix those through well. Scrape the mixture into the pan.

For the topping, mix together the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon, and then scatter abundantly over the top of the batter. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is crusty brown and a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean. Check after 30 minutes and cover the top with foil if it is already quite brown.

Cool slightly before turning out carefully. Do this over your serving plate so that you don't lose any topping. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, on its own, with whipped cream, or with a simple vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Yotam Ottolenghi's Most Exquisite Caramelized Garlic Tart {A Must Make}

I'm an expert at procrastinating and I have a LONG list of recipes that I have been putting off for one reason or another. Maybe the ingredient list is too long, or the recipe takes too long, maybe the ingredients are hard to source and/or they're too expensive, and then there's also the fact that maybe my family might not like the recipe and I'll be the only one to eat it.

Yotam Ottolenghi's Caramelized Garlic Tart has been on my list for years now and I've put it off because I didn't think I could source the Goat Gouda cheese it requires. I also put it off because it's fussier than most recipes I make, requiring the advance forethought to thaw puff pastry and use pie weights, etc. Plus, I wasn't sure if my family would like this one, and I was sure that I would, which means that I'd very likely be eating the whole thing myself.

So thanks to this week's theme, Procrastinator's Special, I had the push I needed to make the recipe. I didn't think I'd find the Goat Gouda cheese, but it turns out my market had it. Score! What I wasn't prepared for is my store to be completely out of garlic! WHAT?? Thankfully I got the last package of already peeled garlic and went ahead and used that, which turned out to be somewhat of a blessing since this recipe required 3 heads of peeled garlic!

Now I was dealing with the high cost of the recipe. Puff pastry, goat cheese, goat gouda, creme fraiche, fresh herbs, heavy cream, etc. You get the drift. This is a $30 tart. I don't usually cook recipes that costly, but every once in awhile it's nice to splurge.

Now we've come to the part that holds me back from a lot of recipes: the family isn't going to like it. Well, let me tell you something, EVERYONE LOVED THIS TART! It is seriously up there with some of the best recipes I've made on my blog!

You've probably seen this tart all over the place. It is, after all, one of Yotam Ottolenghi's signature recipes. Mostly, you've seen recipes of the tart with all it's caramelized garlic glory, but what you haven't seen is the inside of the tart, with all the creamy goat cheese. Holy cow, this tart is glorious, it's perfectly seasoned, and it needs nothing else. It is complete and total perfection! It's tangy, creamy, sweet, with the most lovely mild garlic flavor, herbaceous, crispy, buttery, and flaky. You won't believe how delicious it is. You'll find yourself going back for another slice and dreaming about a time when you can make it again.

This is hands down a MUST MAKE recipe. It's worth the trouble to source the ingredients, worth the time, worth the cost, and just plain worth the fuss. It is absolutely exquisite!

"I think this is the most delicious recipe in the world" - Yotam Ottolenghi's friend, Claudine, after testing it for his book Plenty

Caramelized Garlic Tart
Adapted from Plenty
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4

13 ounces puff pastry
3 medium heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
3/4 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped thyme, plus a few whole sprigs to finish
4 -1/2 ounces soft, creamy goat cheese (such as chevre)
4-12 ounces hard, mature goat cheese (such as goat gouda)
2 eggs
6-1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
6-1/2 tablespoons creme fraiche
black pepper
Parchment paper, pie weights (or beans) for baking tart

Have ready a shallow, loose-bottomed 11-inch fluted tart pan (I have a 9" tart pan and it worked just fine). Roll out the puff pastry into a circle that will line the bottom and sides of the pan, plus be sure to have a little extra puff pastry hanging over the sides as it will shrink while baking. Line the pan with the pastry. Place a large circle of waxed paper on the bottom and fillup with pie weights or dried beans. Leave to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the tart shell in the oven and blind bake for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and paper, then bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the pastry is golden. Set aside. Leave the oven on.  

While the tart shell is baking, make the caramelized garlic. Put the cloves in a small saucepan and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a simmer and blanch for 3 minutes, then drain well. Dry the saucepan, return the cloves to it and add the olive oil. Fry the garlic cloves on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and water and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, rosemary, chopped thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Continue simmering on a medium flame for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic cloves are coated in dark caramel syrup. Set aside.

To assemble the tart, break both types of goat cheese into pieces and scatter in the tart shell.  Spoon the garlic cloves and syrup evenly over the cheese. In a jug whisk together the eggs, cream, creme fraiche, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Pour this custard over the tart filling to fill the gaps, making sure that you can still see the garlic and cheese over the surface (I went ahead and added the garlic and the liquid to the top, after adding the egg mixture, in order to be sure the lovely caramelized bits of garlic were on top).

Reduce the oven temperature to 325F and place the tart inside. Bake for 35-45 minutes (mine cooked in less than 30 minutes), or until the tart filling has set and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little. Then take out of the pan, trim the pastry edge if needed, lay a few sprigs of thyme on top and serve warm (it reheats well!) with a crisp salad, or without.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Jacques and Julia's Garlic Mashed Potatoes {Made with Fresh Homemade Garlic Powder}

Last Saturday I went to my local Farmer's Market and found the coolest thing, Fresh Homemade Garlic Powder! I picked up the tiny bag and right away I was struck by the most amazing aroma. I have to tell you, smelling this fresh garlic powder was mind-blowing and life-changing for me as a cook. I wish you could smell how aromatic it was, the very essence of garlic with buttery notes. I simply could not stop smelling it. It was intoxicating!

I never thought to question the garlic powder we buy in stores, but after smelling this fresh homemade garlic powder, I could never go back. Please trust me and try sourcing some for yourself, or search online, and find a recipe to make your own. It's so very worth it and would make great gifts for friends and family.

Needless to say, we've been eating everything garlic all week long. I've been sprinkling that garlic powder on everything! So, when I bought a roast on sale and was looking for a potato recipe, Jacques and Julia's Garlic Mashed Potatoes were just the thing!

Instead of peeling 10-15 cloves of garlic, I looked up guidelines for using my garlic powder and found that you can substitute 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder for each clove of garlic, so I did just that! Now, this is where I'll issue a disclaimer: this homemade garlic powder is very fresh and I felt confident using it in place of fresh garlic. I would not use regular storebought garlic powder in place of fresh garlic.

I loved how easy these mashed potatoes came together with the ease of the homemade garlic powder. It was so much faster than peeling all those cloves and mashing them into the potatoes. However, this recipe is worth making either way. Everyone loved these! The garlic was just the right amount and not overpowering at all. This is a delicious recipe that is perfect comfort food! Jacques and Julia for the win!

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home
by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin
Serves 6-8

2-3 pounds Yukon potatoes (I prefer Russet) 
salt and pepper
milk (approx 2/3 cup)
4 tablespoons salted butter, plus more for garnishing
2/3 to 1 cup heavy whipping cream 
10-15 cloves garlic (*or fresh homemade garlic powder)

*Note: I had some fresh homemade garlic powder from my farmer's market that is out of this world delicious, so I used that in place of fresh garlic. You can use 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder in place of each garlic clove.

Peel the garlic and place in a small saucepan. Next, pour in the heavy whipping cream and milk until the garlic is covered (I used my fresh homemade garlic powder, 1 cup heavy whipping cream, and 2/3 cups milk). Heat over low heat, watching periodically. If you're using fresh garlic, you'll want the garlic to become so soft it "mushes" when you touch it with a spatula. This process takes at least 20-30 minutes and only gets better the longer you wait. Of course, I wasn't using fresh garlic so I allowed my garlic powder, cream, and milk to cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld. 

Add your potatoes to a large pot, cover with cold water, and add a generous amount of salt to the water. Let the potatoes boil until they are soft and can be pierced with a fork.

Now it's time to marry all the ingredients together.  Drain the potatoes and put them back in the pot on the stove to cook off the remaining moisture. At this point, I always pass my potatoes through a food mill or a potato ricer because that is what yields that very creamiest mashed potatoes. You can do that, or mash them with a potato masher. If you've used fresh garlic cloves make sure you press the garlic through a mesh strainer or mash the garlic with the back of a spatula or spoon. You want to be sure to get the garlic mashed and incorporated into the potatoes! 

Now add the potatoes (and garlic, if using fresh) back into the pan and add the butter and cream mixture and stir, whipping the potatoes with a whisk or a wooden spoon, until you get the desired creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place into a bowl and garnish with a little more butter.