Category Archives: Main Course

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Curry Stew

April 2013

Like the tumultuous teen years, April brings many ups and downs. April in Pittsburgh feels like summer, then winter, then fall…all in the course of one day, which is why there is still time for a bowl of spicy stew with the fresh, summery accent of basil. Share with friends or feed yourself for a week!

Soup and Spoon

Sweet Potato Curry 01

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Curry Stew
Adapted from Food52
serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 Tablespoons ginger, minced

2 pounds sweet potatoes (about two large), chopped into 1 inch chunks (or a little larger)
1/2 cup dry red lentils, rinsed and drained
1 can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
1 teaspoon Cinnamon, ground
2 teaspoons Cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric, ground
dashes of Cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon Sea salt (or to taste)

4-5 cups vegetable stock + extra as needed
1/4 cup creamy almond butter (or nut butter of your choice)

4 cups mixed greens (kale, chard, collards)
fresh basil, to taste
salted peanuts, chopped, to taste

Directions 

Heat olive oil in a large pot set on medium heat. Add the onion and begin sauteeing until onion is getting translucent (about 3 minutes).

Add the garlic and ginger, and continue to sautee for another 3 minutes, till garlic is fragrant.

Add the sweet potatoes, the red lentils, the tomatoes, the cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne and give it all a quick stir to combine.

Add 4 cups vegetable stock and bring mixture to a boil. If there isn’t enough broth to cover everything but at least 1 inch, add another cup of stock.

When soup boils, reduce to a simmer and cook for 40-45 minutes, or until sweet potatoes and lentils are very tender.

If you need more broth as the mixture cooks, add it.

Add almond butter and stir well.

Using an immersion blender or a food processor, blend soup till about half of it is pureed and the other half still has texture. The soup should appear creamy, but chunks of sweet potato should be visible.

Stir in the greens and let it wilt.

Season to taste, adding more salt and pepper as needed.

Serve, topped with fresh basil and crushed peanuts.

Chicken Noodle Soup Like Mom Makes

February 2013

As a child, I had a love-hate relationship with my mom’s soups.

Bowl of Soup and Baguette

The timing of her homemade soup was always perfect. Though she did tell me to put on more layers instead of raising the thermostat (what do I put over a sweatshirt mom?), at least she filled my wintry, cold core with warmth. My childish objection, however, was the ramifications of using a home-cooked chicken- the occasional bone or bit of fat or tendon, which prevented me from slurping recklessly to the bottom of the bowl.

Spoonful of Soup

Then I grew up. I roasted many a chicken and saw how much remained to be used, so finally I did what mom did. I boiled that leftover chicken with plenty of vegetables, added too little salt and mixed in plenty of [brown rice] noodles. As I ate spoonful after spoonful, the warmth of nostalgia superseded all my childhood complaints. Now it’s just a love relationship.

Much like my mom’s main kitchen repertoire, this soup is recipe-less. Just wing it!

Thai Chicken Curry

January 2013

With the sights, smells, sounds and whirling traffic patterns of India still whirling inside me, I was drawn to the curry element of this one-pot wonder from Bon Appétit (albeit a Thai chicken curry). In an effort to make the recipes of my monthly subscription, rather than just admire the beautiful food photography, I prepared this recipe for friends who had similar journeys still whirling inside them.

Thai Chicken Curry 01

An inexplicable potato-peeling zeal led me to overshoot the quantity of potatoes in this recipe, making my version thicker than the magazine photo I had admired, so choose your fancy. To potato or not to potato? One potato, two potato, three potato, four (pounds and then some)? Whatever your potato fancy, I do highly recommend sharing your version with good friends and the type of cocktails that improve as conversation flows and flavors come together!

Thai Chicken Curry 03

Thai Chicken Curry
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
4-6 ounces red curry paste (I used mild)
1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 pounds organic russet potatoes (1 bag), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I may have gone a little overboard on potatoes)
1.5 pounds organic, skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 can (13.5-ounce or 15-ounce) unsweetened coconut milk
Chopped fresh basil
1 cup cashews, chopped

Directions

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat.

Add curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add carrots, onion, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add potatoes, chicken, coconut milk, and 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Divide curry among bowls, and top with basil and chopped cashews.

An Ode To A Cabin In Autumn: A Fall Flavored Lasagna

September 2012

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” -George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

I do find autumn to be quite delicious, especially when fall’s flavors are layered between noodles and cheese! The original Bon Appétit recipe called for broccoli rabe, which I replaced with brussels sprouts. Firstly, I associate those mini cabbages with fall more than broccoli rabe, and secondly, that’s what was available at my grocery store. I also used a brown rice noodle for the health and flavor merits, and this recipe could easily become a gluten free staple if you use an alternative flour (I only had whole-wheat pastry on hand). Extra dashes of red pepper flakes, added to the squash roasting stage, made for a kick of spice, contrasted by hints of cinnamon and nutmeg in the béchamel sauce.  Enjoy with hot cider or hard cider before your migration to successive autumns!

Squash and Brussels Lasagna

Adapted from my food publication deity, Bon Appétit.

Ingredients

Filling

1 local butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons olive oil plus more
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes

Fresh brussels sprouts (the typical grocery store sized bundle), rinsed, stalk removed and pulled apart into leaves

8oz fresh mozzarella, chopped
1/2 lb whole-milk ricotta
1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan
coarsely grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 Tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Preparation

For the Filling

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place squash and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season generously with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Toss to coat squash evenly.

Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, spreading out in a single layer, overlapping slightly.

Roast until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Mix mozzarella and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

*DO AHEAD Squash and cheese mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.

Béchamel and Assembly

1/8 cup organic unsalted butter
1/8 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups (or more) organic half-and-half
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon
1 fresh bay leaf
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

10 oz Brown Rice Lasagna Noodles (Tinkyada)
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Béchamel and Assembly

Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.

Add flour; stir until slightly thickened (do not allow mixture to turn brown), 2–3 minutes. Increase heat slightly.

Slowly whisk in 2 1/2 cups half-and-half, 1/2-cupful at a time, allowing béchamel to thicken between additions (adding half-and-half gradually will help to prevent lumps from forming).

Add 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and cinnamon and bay leaf.

Reduce heat to low and cook, thinning with more half-and-half if too thick, until sauce is a milkshake–like consistency, about 10 minutes longer.

Cook lasagna noodles in a pot of well-salted boiling water until still quite al dente, 8–9 minutes. Transfer immediately to a large bowl of ice water to cool. Drain; spread out noodles on a kitchen towel or baking sheets lined with parchment paper, placing a kitchen towel or parchment between layers.

Ladle about 1/4 cup béchamel into a 11x9x2-inch baking dish; spread evenly over bottom. Line dish with a single layer of noodles, cutting as needed to fit (use large scraps in subsequent layers).

Layer 1/3 of squash over.

Scatter brussels sprouts leaves over the previous layer.

Dollop 1/3 of ricotta mixture randomly over greens.

Drizzle 1/2 cup béchamel evenly over ricotta mixture.

Repeat process 2 more times for a Total of 3 layers, finishing with a layer of noodles. Spread remaining béchamel over; top with Parmesan. Leftover noodles can be used for a freeform version with any leftover components.

*DO AHEAD Lasagna can be assembled 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Return to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake lasagna uncovered until bubbly and starting to brown, about 45 minutes.

Turn oven to broil. Cook until browned and golden, 4–7 minutes.

Let rest for 20–30 minutes before serving.

No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of spring. 
-Samuel Johnson

May you taste the fruits of delicious autumn! Bon appétit!

My Special’s One’s Birthday: A Most Memorable Main Course (Lamb Shank)

April 2012

After enjoying my fair share of lamb shanks, I added “prepare a lamb entree” to my mental list of New Year’s food resolutions. My special one’s birthday proved to be the worthy occasion and proved I’m clearly not the type of kitchen adventurer who practices and fine tunes a recipe before serving it on a special occasion.  I embrace the risk and take the plunge!  The birthday boy said this was one of the top dinners I’ve made him so far which sounds a lot like “goal accomplished!”

In the realm of slow cooked meats, this recipe felt like cheating.  Less than three hours for tender, flavorful lamb that fell off the bone?  Don’t question it.  Just make it!

Lamb Shanks Fit For A Birthday
Adapted from Bon Appétit 

Ingredients

Black Forest Bacon Fat (I happened to have this in my skillet, but olive oil will work if you don’t have bacon fat)
1 large red onion, chopped (about 1 ¼ cups)
3 large whole garlic cloves

1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
3 large lamb shanks (about 3-4lbs total)
Whole-wheat pastry flour (or AP flour)
2 cups dry red wine
1 can (14 oz) cherry tomatoes in sauce
.1 lbs dried porcini mushrooms
1 Tablespoons dried herbes de Provence
~1 pound organic carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-long pieces

Directions

Heat bacon fat in a skillet over medium heat.

Add red onion and garlic; sauté until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to small bowl.

Sprinkle lamb shanks with salt and pepper; dust with flour to coat.

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

Add lamb and cook until brown, turning occasionally, about 12 minutes.

Add red onion mixture, wine, tomatoes with sauce, mushrooms, herbes de Provence, and carrots.

Stir to coat lamb with vegetable mixture.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until lamb is very tender, turning twice, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Uncover and continue to simmer until sauce reduces slightly, about 10 minutes longer. Spoon off fat from pan juices. Season lamb to taste with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm, covered, over low heat before serving.

Voila!

Easter Dinner (Part II)

April 2012

The air was crisp, but the sky was brilliant blue!  It was the perfect Sunday afternoon for an Easter meal.

Two handsome gents arrived, and they had put a lot of effort into meticulous matching, right down to their identical socks (yes, you read it correctly- identical socks!).

Fortunately, I had set an Easter table worthy of such fastidiously fashionable fellas.

It was time to eat, but joining my table usually includes a rite of passage.  I’ll give you a hint- it rhymes with “if tile”… (please pardon my laser beam death stare!  Where did that come from?!?!)

The Easter Menu Breakdown…

Easter Ham Glaze

~2 1/2 cups Turkish apricots (all natural)
~ 1/2 cup Rum (Kraken)
1/2 cup organic orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup Bonne Maman peach preserves

Directions

Slice the dried apricots into fourths and soak in rum overnight.

Heat the apricots and rum in a saucepan over medium heat until boiling.

Reduce to a simmer and add orange juice concentrate, maple and peach preserves. Stir until well combined.

Add to black forest ham slices and bake in oven to warm the ham.

Pommes Anna
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Review

Pommes Anna

Ingredients

3lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/16 to ⅛ inch thick
5 Tablespoons organic unsalted butter, melted
⅓ cup peanut oil
Salt and pepper
Grated pecorino romano cheese
Fresh thyme

Directions

Toss the potato slices with melted butter in a large bowl until the potatoes are evenly coated.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour the oil into a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Swirl to coat the skillet bottom, and set the skillet over medium-low heat.

Begin timing, and arrange the potato slices in skillet, starting in the center to form the first layer.

Sprinkle evenly with approximately ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the second layer of potatoes, working in the opposite direction of the first layer; sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper as in previous step.

Repeat layering potatoes and sprinkling with salt and pepper, until no slices remain.

Continue to cook over medium-low heat until 30 minutes elapse from the time you began arranging the potatoes in the skillet.

Use a 9-inch cake pan or a metal spatula to press down the potatoes firmly to compact them.

Cover the skillet, and place it in the oven.

Bake until the potatoes begin to soften, about 15 minutes.

Uncover the skillet, and continue to bake until the potatoes are tender when a paring knife is inserted in the center, and the potatoes near the edge of the skillet are browned, about 10 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, line a rimless cookie sheet or the back of a baking sheet with foil and coat it very lightly with oil.

Drain off the excess fat from the potatoes by pressing the potatoes into the skillet with the bottom of the cake pan or metal spatula while tilting the skillet to pour off the fat.

Set the foil-lined cookie sheet on top of the skillet. With hands protected by oven mitts or potholders, hold the cookie sheet in place with one hand and carefully invert the skillet and cookie sheet together.

Remove the skillet carefully.

Carefully slide the potatoes onto a platter.

Cut into wedges and serve with pecorino romano cheese and a thyme garnish.

Roasted Champagne Mangoes

Ingredients

1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
3 tablespoons organic agave syrup
4 champagne mangoes, peeled, pitted, cut into long slices

Garnish

1/4 cup crème fraîche or yogurt
1/3 cup natural unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°.

Stir first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until sugar dissolves.

Add mango chunks; toss to coat. Let marinate, tossing occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Place mango in a cast iron skillet; reserve marinade.

Roast mangoes for 15 minutes. Turn, brush with marinade, and roast until tender and caramelized, 10–15 minutes. Drizzle remaining marinade over; let cool slightly.

Eat plain or garnish with greek yogurt and pistachios.

Sauteed Asparagus with Sesame Lime Dressing

Ingredients

juice from 1 honey tangerine
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/4c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1Tbs. black sesame seeds

You remember that cake!  I already talked about that lovely little layer cake.

Lobster By Night/Lobster By Day

Lobster by Night
March 2012 

It had been a while since the two of us had gathered at my dining room table, so I proposed a date of the domestic sort.  As I began menu scheming, I turned to the stained and tattered pages of my trusted America’s Test Kitchen magazine, through which I have faithfully been working.  When I saw a lobster recipe with the words “lazy man” in the title, I found that weekend’s winner!

Yes, that is frozen lobster.  I love him (↓), and I love a special dinner, but I was in no way prepared to teach myself how to thwack a bright red, living thing with grabbers and claws! Sorry friends.  Not this time!  My other justification was this- if I am going to teach myself how to thwack a bright red, living thing with grabbers and claws, I’m not going to cut up the meat and bake it in a gratin.

The recipe had me with this opening description…

Lobster is a classic choice for an elegant dinner for two.  Most people boil or steam their crustaceans and serve them whole with a side of drawn butter.  While there’s nothing wrong with this simple, traditional approach, fumbling around with a cooked lobster, hammering down on shells and poking around for meat isn’t exactly a tidy affair.  I wanted a refined lobster dinner for a couple that delivered the sweet, rich flavor of lobster and didn’t require a bib to eat.  – Dan Zuccarello, America’s Test Kitchen Books

Lazy Man’s Lobster for Two (By Night)
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen magazine

Filling

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
Dash of cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup red wine (cabernet sauvignon)
8 oz vegetable broth
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
12 ounces lobster meat (frozen), chopped coarse
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
Yakima smoked salt
Pepper

Topping

1 slice high quality wheat bread
3 Tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tablespoon minced sage
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon paprika

For the Filling

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering.

Add the shallot and cook until the shallot is softened, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the red wine and simmer until it has nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the thyme and cayenne.

Whisk in the broth and cream and simmer until the liquid has thickened and reduced to ¾ cup, 10-12 minutes.

Off the heat, add the cooked lobster meat and sage. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the mixture evenly between two 2-cup gratin dishes (or similar baking dish).

For the Topping

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pulse the bread in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses.

Combine the bread crumbs, the pecorino, sage, oil and paprika in a bowl.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the gratins.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Salad

Goose Creek Farms Mizuna
2 champagne mangos, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 avocado, sliced
green peas

Dressing

Juice from 1 honey tangerine
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/4c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1Tbs. black sesame seeds

My own personal mixologist shook up one of my favorites:

Buffalo Trace bourbon
AITA Snap
Peychaud’s bitters
Dried cherries rehydrated with bourbon

Well, he actually shook up TWO of those for me!

Lobster by Day

The recipe said “Lazy Man’s Lobster For Two,” but that “two” would have to refer to two rather large and very hungry New Englanders as far as I can tell.  Accordingly, “two” for us meant two meals, and our leftovers  transformed into a delicious brunch!

Babies’ first ever poached eggs (a team effort in progress)…

Lazy Man’s Lobster For Two (By Day)

(from the bottom up)
Whole wheat bread, toasted
Speck
Cahill Irish Whiskey Cheese
Leftover Lazy Man’s Lobster (see recipe above)
Poached eggs (from local/free-range eggs)
Smoked black pepper

Leftovers are just new opportunities I say, so Happy Leftovers!

ps:  That’s some leftover Post Patty’s Brunch French Toast on the other side of the plate.  It was quite the morning in the dining room!