Au Gratin Good Time

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

why hello there

When they’re in season, brussels sprouts find their way onto my plate at least once a week. And while I’m HUGE fan of roasting and sautéing those little beauties, that can get boring.

But if you’re looking for a good time, go ahead and add some cheese. Cheese tends to make everything better, right? And brussels sprouts are no exception.

Most grocery stores have pre-bagged brussels sprouts but if they’re available on the stalk, go for that. It might fit a little awkward in your fridge but they’ll taste fresher and last longer.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin
1 lb of brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper
½ cup of light cream
3/4 cup of shredded white cheddar cheese
½ cup of breadcrumbs
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

Heat your oven to 400º.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the brussels sprouts and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender. Drain and then roughly chop.

Lightly grease a 9×7 baking dish with cooking spray and then add the chopped brussels sprouts. Add the red pepper flakes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Pour the cream over the top and sprinkle with the cheese and breadcrumbs. Then place dabs of butter around the dish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Let cool slightly and then eat.

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Heat Up

winter minestrone

hot & hearty

So far it would seem 2014 is only about one thing. Care to take guess, people? No? Well, I’ll just tell you.

It’s cold. Cold, cold, cold.

But fortunately, that means we’re smack-dab in the middle of soup and grilled cheese season. And you simply can’t have soup and grilled cheese season without a hot bowl of soup. Duh.

Normally I prefer my grilled cheese with tomato soup, but as any 6 year old will tell you, pretty much any hot bowl of soup is perfect for dunking your sandwich. This hearty minestrone uses a healthy portion of winter vegetables, tomatoes and beans to create a grilled cheese worthy soup – that tastes just as good on its own. It also doesn’t take too long to go from stockpot to soup bowl so you can eat up and heat up in no time.

Winter Minestrone
1 medium onion, chopped
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with basil, garlic & oregano
1 small butternut squash, cut into small cubes
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 15 oz can of navy beans, rinsed & drained
½ to 3/4 cup of ditalini (or other small pasta)
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

In a large stockpot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes (including juice) and simmer until thickened, about 8 minutes. Add the squash, carrots, beans and 6 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the pasta and simmer until tender.

Right before serving, stir in the grated Parmesan. Ladle into bowls and then eat along with a grilled cheese sandwich.


Falling for Risotto, Again

maple pumpkin risotto

who’s up for a round of squash?

Guys, I think I have another food obsession. Everyone (everyone who regularly reads this blog, that is) knows that I’m obsessed with chicken. And eggs. Duh.

But after searching through my recipes, there are a lot that involve squash. Zucchini. Butternut. Acorn. And like this risotto, pumpkin. If you asked me when I was a kid – heck, if you asked me 5 years ago – I would have said that I didn’t like squash in any form. It was squishy and gross and bland. Oh, how naive I was. Squash is nothing like that. It’s sweet and rich and earthy. And crazy versatile.

Which brings me to pumpkin. Most people are used to seeing squashes in all kind of dishes this time of year, but pumpkin still seems to be something we just carve up or bake into a pie. Seasonal lattes aside, there’s more to pumpkin than just that. And risotto, with it’s creamy, fluffy rice, is the perfect base for this autumnal flavor. And please don’t get put off by the somewhat laborious process of making risotto. It’s worth it in the end, I promise. Would this squash fanatic lie to you?

Maple Pumpkin Risotto
2 cups of apple juice or cider
3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 ½ cups of diced leeks
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
2 cups of Arborio rice
1 cup of white wine
1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
3 tablespoon of maple syrup
2 tablespoon of grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Salt & pepper
4 slices of maple-glazed bacon, cooked & crumbled (optional)

In a medium sauce pan, combine the apple juice and stock and warm over low heat.

Heat the butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until soft and slightly caramelized, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and wine, and cook until the wine has been absorbed.

Next, add ½ cup of the juice/broth mixture to the rice and stir frequently. When fully absorbed, add another ½ cup of the mixture. Repeat this process until all of the juice/broth mixture has been absorbed into the rice, or until the rice is al dente. The rice should nearly double in size, so use that as a gauge, too.

Stir in the pumpkin puree, maple syrup and Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Plate, garnish with extra Parmesan (and bacon), and eat.

(*Also, I realize putting maple-glazed bacon on this doesn’t make it meatless. But I’m not saying you HAVE to put it on there. But I am telling you it tastes pretty good if you do.)


Rollin’ With My Zucchinis

zucchini rollatini, plate

ready to roll

You probably don’t think prosciutto can come from Serbia. At least I didn’t before a few weeks ago. But silly me, it does. And my friend Boris (who’s Serbian) was nice enough to bring me back some from his recent trip home. He promised it would be different from the Italian stuff: meatier, smokier, not as dry. Which, come to think of it, is a lot like Boris.

Of course you don’t need Serbian prosciutto for this dish, but it would be a great touch. Just be careful slicing your zucchini so that it’s not too thin. Then it might be too delicate to roll after sautéing. And while Serbian prosciutto isn’t a must-have, please don’t use some boring jarred tomato sauce. Making your own is so, so much better.

Zucchini Rollatini
2 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8-inch thick lengthwise
6 to 8 slices of prosciutto
8 oz of fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
1 bunch of basil leaves
1 ½ to 2 cups of tomato sauce
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Toothpicks
8×8 baking dish, or similar

Heat your oven to 425º.

Season the zucchini slices on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini in batches and cook until golden on both sides, about 2 minutes. Let cool enough to handle.

Top each zucchini slice with a piece of prosciutto cut to fit, a slice (or two) of mozzarella cut to fit and 1 basil leaf. Carefully roll each stack into a pinwheel and secure with a toothpick. Place the tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish and then place each rollatini side by side in the dish. (You can remove the toothpicks at this point, or wait until after baking.)

zucchini rollatini, dish

bake & roll

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling. Plate and then eat.


Shreddin’ It

shredded chipotle beef tacos

where’s the beef? in a taco

I’ve been really busy the last handful of weekends. So busy, that I haven’t had time to enjoy a lazy Sunday at home. And as most of you probably know by now, that means loafing on the couch, and making something great for supper. Taking advantage of a cool-ish late summer day, I decided to cook some meat. I wanted one of those Sundays where the house smelled of simmering beef, with that gentle bubbling sound coming from the stove, and the feeling that in a just few hours your belly would be full and happy. That’s not asking a lot, now is it?

What I love about this recipe is that it puts a Mexican spin on a traditional pot roast. Onions, tomatoes and chipotle peppers gave the beef so much flavor. And after nearly 3 hours of cooking, it was so fork-tender, it shredded beautifully. So beautifully that the only way to really enjoy it was in a taco, so I could gaze upon it’s lovely texture while stuffing it into my mouth. Now doesn’t that paint a pretty picture?

The slaw is pretty rockin’ too. The lime juice gives it a zesty bite, and went really well with the jalapeño-lime refried beans. For another twist, you could fry a tortilla, spread a layer of beans, then stack it with beef and slaw, turning it into a tasty tostada.

Shredded Chipotle Beef Tacos with Creamy Lime Slaw
For the tacos:
3 lb boneless beef chuck roast
1 large onion, cut into wedges
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 28oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
3 to 4 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced
1 tablespoon of adobo sauce
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of chili powder
½ bunch of cilantro
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Flour tortillas
A few slices of fresh avocado, for garnish

For the slaw:
1 cup of shredded white cabbage
1 carrot, shredded
2 tablespoons of sour cream
2 tablespoons of lime juice
Garlic salt
Pepper

Drizzle the beef with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a Dutch oven on medium-high heat. When hot, sear the beef until browned on all sides. Add the onion and garlic and let cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, spices and cilantro plus 2 cups of water (the beef should be completely covered). Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 ½ to 3 hours until fork tender.

While the beef cooks, mix the cabbage, carrot, sour cream and lime juice in a medium bowl. Season to taste with garlic salt and pepper. Cover and let chill for at least 1 hour.

Remove the beef from the pot and shred using two forks. Strain the cooking liquid into a large bowl, reserving 1 cup of liquid; discard the rest. Add the shredded beef and liquid to a skillet, along with the red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste, and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly.

To make the tacos, heat the tortillas and then add a layer of shredded beef, top with some slaw and garnish with a few pieces of avocado. Then eat.


¡Lime-a Beans!

jalapeno-lime refried beans

holy frijoles

No no, I don’t mean lima beans. Although I have nothing against those. I’m talking lime. And also jalapeño. Which is such a tasty combination, made even tastier mashed with cannellini beans.

Storytime: Refried beans used to gross me out as a kid. I never understood how or why they were fried, and then fried again. Who would do such a thing? They also kinda looked like dog food to me. Or what I perceived as dog food because we didn’t have a dog. But then one time, somewhere, I actually tasted them. Mmm, creamy and spicy. And I loved them. Now, a Mexican dish doesn’t seem complete without a side of refried beans. Later on I did some research into the name, and found out that it’s a mistranslation. It’s not re-fried. It’s actually closer to well-fried. So there you go. And here’s an easy recipe for jalapeño-lime well-fried beans.

Jalepeño-Lime Refried Beans
½ small yellow onion, decided
1 jalapeño, finely diced
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 15.5oz can of cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of lime juice, or more depending on taste
Jalapeño hot sauce
Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
A few sprigs of cilantro, for garnish

In a cast iron skillet, heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the jalepeño, garlic and cumin, and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add the beans, 4 tablespoons of water and season with salt and pepper. Cook on low until beans are soft and liquid has mostly been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Off the heat, add the butter and mash the beans until they’re the consistency you prefer. Stir in the lime juice and hot sauce to taste. Garnish with cilantro, and then eat.


Say Queso!

chile con queso

i dip you dip we dip

We can all be little cheesy now and then, right? Right? Just say yes and agree with me and this will go a lot smoother. Probably as smooth as melted cheese. And just as creamy.

Wait, what are we talking about? Oh right. Cheese. As in smooth and creamy chile con queso.

But you know what we’re not talking about? That over-processed brick of “cheese” in that yellow box. If you want to use that stuff, fine by me. You’re just not going to find it here. Real cheese, both cheddar and Monterey Jack, and can be melted and chile’d up just as well as that fake stuff.

Wait, it’s even better than that stuff. No comparison whatsoever.

Chile con Queso
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
½ of a small yellow onion, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of flour
1 cup of milk
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with zesty mild green chilies, drained
8 oz of cheddar, shredded
8 oz of Monterey Jack, shredded
½ cup of sour cream
Salt and pepper
Tortilla chips (Scoops preferred)

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and jalapeno, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until it thickens, about 3 minutes. Next, stir in the diced tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese a little at a time until melted. Stir in the sour cream, season to taste with salt and pepper, and continue cooking until the sauce is smooth and creamy and the consistency you prefer. Transfer to a bowl and serve with tortilla chips.