Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vanilla cake with white chocolate frosting

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I know that many people are looking for healthy recipes right now, but I figured that some of you may also be looking for dessert ideas for New Year's Eve. I made this cake for Andrew's grandmother's birthday, which was on Christmas day. It was her 90th (!), so all eight of her children and their families were in town to celebrate. Since it was a large crowd, I made a chocolate cake with Nutella frosting in addition to this one. I figured these two cakes would please both chocolate and vanilla lovers. This vanilla cake is the "whiteout cake" from the Baked cookbook, so called because it is monochromatic, all white. It is exceptionally light (in texture, unfortunately not in calorie content) due to the addition of beaten egg whites, which are folded into the batter at the end. With its fluffy white chocolate frosting, it made a great contrast to the rich, dense chocolate cake, and was very popular at the party. Happy birthday again to grandma-in-law!

This is probably going to be my last post of 2011. I wish you all a very happy new year! See you in 2012.

Are you cooking something special for New Year's Eve? What are you making?

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Seared scallops with spiced butternut squash puree

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Andrew and I don't exchange Christmas presents. Instead, we treat ourselves to a nice dinner at a restaurant that is a bit fancier than the ones we normally go to, and enjoy an evening out together. The first year that we were dating, we had a three-course meal at Rendezvous, the highlight of which was an amazing appetizer of seared scallops with Moroccan spices. This year, we had the five-course tasting menu at Journeyman, which included some of the most creative and inventive dishes I have ever had. To give you an example, one of the plates included rye bread ice cream. And it was good! Several of the courses at Journeyman also included vegetable purees, which had amazing complexity and depth of flavor. I was impressed - I didn't know something as seemingly boring as parsnip puree, for example, could be so delicious!

Anyway, after I bought some gorgeous sea scallops at the Somerville Winter Market, I decided to combine some favorite elements of our past holidy dinners into this dish. I spiced up a simple butternut squash puree with ras al hanout (a Moroccan spice blend) and served it with seared scallops. The combination was delicious - spicy and sweet, with a good mix of textures. And since I already had the cooked squash in the fridge, this dish came together in less than 10 minutes! It's so nice to know that we can capture the essence of some of our favorite restaurant meals right at home anytime we want.

What are the most memorable restaurant meals you've had?

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Seared scallops with spiced butternut squash puree
Makes 3 servings

1 1/2 cups pureed butternut squash*
1 tsp ras al hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
9 large sea scallops (about 3/4 lb.)
1 tbs butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small saucepan, stir ras al hanout into squash puree until well blended. Heat puree over medium heat until warm, and add salt to taste. While squash is warming, pat scallops dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a large, heavy skillet (cast iron is best) over moderately high heat. When skillet is hot, add butter. When butter is melted and foam subsides, add scallops to pan. Sear scallops for 2 minutes per side, or until they are just cooked through with a golden brown crust. Divide squash puree into three portions, and top each with three scallops. Serve immediately.

*You can cook the squash however you want (for example, bake the squash whole until it is tender, then halve it, remove the seeds, and scoop out the flesh), and then puree the flesh in a food processor.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A holiday menu

I've been working a lot lately. In the past I've always made it a priority to cook homemade meals almost every day, but right now I just don't have time. As I've mentioned before, I'm in the final stretch of my Ph.D. and should be defending my thesis in just about 2 months! I'm not sure what will come next, and I'm taking my time figuring it out so that I can find something I enjoy. Anyway...I'm saying all this to let you know that I probably won't be blogging too frequently for the next few weeks. I'll try my best to make some blog-worthy recipes and tell you about them, but honestly nothing too interesting is coming out of my kitchen these days. So I hope you will bear with me for a while and still be around when I return in full force in a couple months!

Since I don't have a new recipe to tell you about today, I thought it would be fun to suggest a holiday menu made up of some of my previously posted recipes (I'm not actually hosting a holiday dinner this year, but it is fun to think about menus anyway!). I've been blogging long enough now that I have enough material to do roundups like this. So looking back on what I've made in the past, here is what I would cook for a (mostly vegetarian) holiday dinner party:

Start out with some
feta and radish toasts and celery root and potato latkes



 



Get dinner started with a kale salad with sherry-walnut vinaigrette



 













Serve butternut squash and hazelnut lasagna as the main course 

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And finally, some cranberry pecan caramel bars for dessert!

















(These bars are probably the most popular thing I've ever made, and they are perfect for the holidays! I brought them to Shannon's cookie swap over the weekend - check out her recap post if you want more cookie recipe ideas from some fabulous local bloggers)

Are you hosting a holiday gathering this year? What is on your menu?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Butternut squash and hazelnut lasagna

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The last two recipes I posted were healthy, low-fat, and packed with veggies, perfect for the week after Thanksgiving. But now I think it's time to talk about something a bit more decadent, don't you? After all, the holidays are coming up (sooner than I'd like to admit), and it is time for menu planning! If you are looking for a holiday-worthy vegetarian main course, this lasagna is perfect - definitely worthy of serving to guests. I brought it to a lasagna bake-off party (what a great party theme, huh?), and it was a hit. It is a nice change from a typical lasagna with tomato sauce, and the squash and hazelnuts make a great flavor and texture combination. And with a generous amount of cheese and creamy sauce, lasagna doesn't get much better than this!

Butternut squash and hazelnut lasagna
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes one 9 x 13-inch lasagna

For filling:
1 large onion, chopped
3 tbs unsalted butter
3 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 tbs chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
6 tsp chopped fresh sage
1 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted

For sauce:
1 tsp minced garlic
3 tbs unsalted butter
5 tbs all-purpose flour
5 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper

For assembling lasagna:
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)
3 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)
16 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets of no-boil lasagna noodles (1/2 lb)

Make filling:
Melt butter in a deep, heavy 12-inch skillet over moderate heat. Add onion and cook until softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt, and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Cover pan and cook until squash is tender, about 5-7 minutes longer. Remove filling mixture from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Add additional salt to taste if necessary, then cool filling.

While filling cooks, make sauce:
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 mixture, whisking, 3 minutes. Slowly pour in milk, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Stir in salt and white pepper and remove sauce from heat. Discard bay leaf. 

Assemble lasagna:
Preheat oven to 425 deg F and butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Mix cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the baking dish and cover with 4 pasta sheets. Spread 2/3 cup sauce over the noodles, top with one third of the filling, then sprinkle with a heaping 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat this layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with the remaining 4 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese. Tightly cover the baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagna in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until lasagna is golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagna stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thai cabbage salad

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Are you looking for another healthy recipe to help you recover from Thanksgiving overindulgences? Or do you want to prepare your waistline for an onslaught of Christmas cookies? Or maybe you just like food that tastes good? Whatever the case may be, this is a recipe you should try. It's a Thai salad packed with colorful crisp vegetables, fresh herbs, and your choice of protein, all tossed with a sweet and sour dressing. I had tagged this recipe last year in Food & Wine, and adapted it quite a lot to create this version. I kept the dressing similar but changed pretty much all the main ingredients. I was really happy with the final version - the flavors blend beautifully and this dish makes a wonderful light meal.

What kinds of fall/winter salads are you making?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Soba noodles with mushroom-ginger broth, vegetables, and tofu

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I ate a lot of pie yesterday. Like, really, a lot. And it was delicious. But as much as I enjoyed it yesterday, I definitely did not feel like eating pie today. Good thing we don't have any leftovers around! (that would be because, um, I ate the slice we brought home last night). I don't know about you, but on the day after Thanksgiving, I like to eat light and healthy food. Plus to be honest, I like vegetables better than turkey anyway.

I was craving Asian food today, and found this recipe while I was looking through magazine recipes I have tagged in the past. It's got soba noodles, tofu, and seasonal vegetables (cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes) topped off with a warm and comforting broth that is made with ginger, shiitake mushrooms, cilantro, and kombu (a type of seaweed). It is packed with good-for-you ingredients and there is zero added fat. It tastes good and will make you feel good too. And with a bowl of this for dinner, you definitely deserve to have some pie for dessert!

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What do you feel like eating the day after Thanksgiving? Do you go right for the leftover turkey, or take a break with something different?

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pumpkin stuffed with bread and cheese

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This dish would be an amazing choice for a vegetarian main dish for Thanksgiving. I feel a little bad telling you this now - first of all, you probably have your Thanksgiving menu planned, and second, sugar pumpkins are pretty hard to find this close to the holiday. I had to go to three different places yesterday (fighting my way through Thanksgiving grocery shoppers each time) to find them. But, even if you can't make it until next year, I want to tell you about this dish anyway, because it is awesome. The recipe is from Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite and Molly's recent post made me want to try it. I hosted a pumpkin & squash themed dinner party last night, and this was the perfect choice for a main course. It is pretty simple to prep, but nice enough to serve to guests. It comes out of the oven with pumpkin skin crackling and gooey cheese bubbling, and can be cut at the table. I'd say the Thanksgiving turkey has got some competition...

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sweet potato and kale hash with baked eggs

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In my last post, I mentioned that with some busy weeks ahead, I need to have quicker solutions for weeknight dinners. Well, breakfast food is always a good source of inspiration for simple meals - most people (myself included) don't have the energy to create elaborate meals first thing in the morning! And of course, breakfast food is just as good, sometimes better, at dinner time. Something like hash is easy as well as very versatile - it can be made with whatever ingredients you prefer. I must admit that this sweet potato and kale hash is not particularly quick, but all the cooking happens in the oven, leaving plenty of time for watching Glee doing important thesis-related work. Versions of hash have been all over the blogs lately, and I was definitely inspired by Cara, Jen, Emily, and Kerstin when I created this one. It's got sweet potatoes lightly spiced with coriander and smoked paprika, roasted with kale and bacon, and topped with baked eggs. It's a complete meal in itself and involves almost no active work.

What is your favorite starch for a fall hash: potatoes, winter squash, or sweet potatoes?

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Butternut squash souffles

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Here's another fun squash dish from this month's Cooking Light. I never would have thought to make a squash souffle (or put squash in cinnamon rolls, for that matter), which is why I love turning to magazines and cookbooks for ideas. I'm no expert on souffle making, so mine is not as pretty as the one in the magazine, but it sure tasted good. Airy and light, like eating a squash flavored cloud, if such a thing were to exist. Hehe. Anyway, this makes a lovely light dinner with a side salad.

Now on a separate note, I need your help. I have a busy couple months ahead as I finish up (!) my Ph.D. thesis. While I love cooking dinner from scratch after work and find it to be great stress relief, it doesn't work so well when I come home late, already starving. I still want to eat home-cooked food, so I'm planning on spending some weekend time cooking make-ahead meals as well as some freezer-friendly dinners. I have a tendency to want to make things that really do not fill these criteria (like um, souffle, for example), so I clearly need your ideas! I'd love to hear about your favorite recipes and get some new inspiration.

What are your favorite make-ahead or freezer-friendly meals?

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Delicata squash cinnamon rolls with maple glaze

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The November issue of Cooking Light has a feature on winter squash, with some of the coolest recipe ideas I have seen in a while. It definitely inspired a full on squash obsession for me. As evidence - after I read the magazine, I went out to the farmers' market and bought 7 squashes, and only 2 of them made it through the weekend without being cooked. Honestly, I haven't been this excited about squash since I was an infant! (apparently it was my favorite baby food). Anyway, I thought these cinnamon rolls were such a fun way to use squash. If you're thinking that baking with delicata squash is weird, just remember that it is essentially the same as baking with pumpkin. The pureed squash adds sweetness and moisture to these rolls, which are deliciously spiced and drizzled with a maple glaze. They are great for dessert as well as breakfast.

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Do you ever make baked goods with winter squash?

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pasta with cabbage and potatoes

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Okay, I hope you're ready for a recipe full of carbs! I normally wouldn't put pasta and potatoes together in the same dish, but the New York marathon is coming up this weekend, so I figured something carb-heavy was appropriate in honor of those running. Personally, I know I'll never reach the level of athleticism of a marathon runner, but the carbo-loading part? That I can handle =).

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This recipe is another one from the November issue of Food & Wine which I've been cooking a lot from lately. It's described as "peasant food" - simple, tasty, and filling. The pasta is tossed with steamed cabbage and potatoes, and a sauce that is flavored with garlic, rosemary, thyme, and cheese. It's a nice rustic dish that is perfect comfort food for colder weather.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Roasted brussels sprouts with capers, walnuts, and anchovies

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Friends, I was so glad to see all the brassica love on my last post! As I have said before, I get a little depressed when summer produce is gone, but you all have reminded me that fall is pretty great too. And it's a good thing you all seem to love brussels sprouts, because I can't get enough of them right now and I'm posting about them again today. This is another recipe from Food & Wine - roasted brussels sprouts are tossed with a super flavorful dressing that includes anchovies, capers, vinegar, mustard, honey, and more. It's a great mix of sweet, savory, sour, and acidic, and the toasted walnuts add a nice textural contrast to the sprouts. Definitely not a boring side dish! I think this would be a great addition to a Thanksgiving table if your guests are ready for something a little different.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pasta with cauliflower and brussels sprouts

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I am loving the latest issue of Food + Wine! It got me really excited about brassicas, of all things. In case you don't know, brassicas are a group of vegetables that include cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts, among others - they are in full force at the markets right now. These are really not the most exciting vegetables and I usually struggle to find anything even halfway interesting to make with them. But after reading through Food + Wine, I actually went to the market last weekend hoping to get cabbage, and worrying that the brussels sprouts would be gone before I got there. (Side note: I actually had two anxiety dreams last week that involved not being able to get to the farmers' market. How weird am I?...Don't answer that). Anyway, this pasta dish was the first one I made out of all the recipes I tagged in the magazine. It's got nicely browned cauliflower and brussels sprouts, with tons of flavor from garlic, anchovies, rosemary, thyme, and cheese, all topped off with toasted bread crumbs. It was awesome! Hope you're ready for more brassica recipes in the next week or two...

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What vegetables do you struggle the most to get excited about? 

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Apple pie

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Yesterday I made apple pie for the first time. I don't know why I never made it before. I've made other pies, and I'm comfortable working with pastry dough - in fact, I really enjoy it. And I have always loved apple pie...I just never tried making it. Anyway, I put apple pie on the list of things that I wanted to make for my second year of blogging, and I knew if I didn't do it this fall I'd miss the chance to use awesome local apples. So when we got invited to a birthday potluck, I decided it was the perfect time to finally make an apple pie. I decided to use the recipe from The New Best Recipe from Cook's Illustrated - really can't go wrong with that book! The pie came out very pretty, with a gorgeous golden brown crust. The crust was flaky and tender and buttery, and the filling was delicious. The apples had good texture and the amount of spices was just enough to enhance the flavor of the filling without covering up the character of the apples. (Sorry I don't have a picture of a slice of pie for you - the pie went pretty fast at the party and we didn't want to interrupt things by taking pictures). I'm really glad I finally made this! I just wish we had some leftovers...

Have you ever made apple pie?

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Macaroni and cheese with butternut squash

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Wow, it has been a very busy few days! Can't complain though - I went to a really amazing conference and got to play with my baby nephew, among other things. The only downside was that I was away from my kitchen for the weekend and haven't had much of a chance to cook in the last week. Needless to say, I was pretty happy to get back into the kitchen today! I had a butternut squash sitting on the counter that was starting to look a bit suspect, so I decided to use it to make this mac 'n cheese recipe that I tagged in Cooking Light recently. I was intrigued by the healthier take on mac 'n cheese that uses butternut squash to add color, flavor, and creaminess. 

I'm so glad I tried this recipe! This twist on mac 'n cheese is really great - the sauce is creamy and cheesy but not too heavy and makes for a very satisfying meal. I'm definitely keeping this one in mind if my future children are picky eaters and I need to sneak vegetables into dinner ;).

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Macaroni and cheese with butternut squash
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 8

I made a few changes to the recipe - I increased the amount of squash a bit and added more broth to keep the sauce from getting too thick. I used whole wheat pasta to increase the nutritional value a bit, and also decided to use whole milk instead of skim. We already had whole milk in the fridge and it adds less than 15 calories per serving, so why not?

4 cups peeled cubed butternut squash
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs fat-free Greek yogurt
5 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
4 oz. pecorino Romano cheese, shredded
1 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated, divided
1 pound uncooked pasta (use a ridged pasta shape like shells or cavatappi, whole wheat if you want)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Cooking spray
2 tbs chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 375 deg F.

Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 20 minutes, then remove from heat. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt and puree mixture using an immersion blender until smooth (or use a regular blender). Stir in Gruyere, pecorino Romano, and 2 tbs Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

While squash is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta, then drain. Stir together pasta and sauce and spread mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until crumbs are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle bread crumbs over pasta and lightly top with cooking spray.

Bake pasta in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until sauce is bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stir fried brussels sprouts and tofu

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Brussels sprouts are a polarizing vegetable - some people love them, some people hate them. I love them, but tend to get stuck in a rut of roasting them and serving them as a side dish. So when I bought a bag of brussels sprouts last week, I excitedly turned to Plenty, figuring that Ottolenghi would have some genius recipe idea that would reinvent this veggie for me. But sadly, there was nothing in the index, and I resigned myself to the idea that maybe this cookbook isn't perfect after all.Then a few days later, I was looking up another vegetable, and spotted this recipe, apparently indexed incorrectly. So yeah, there's a flaw in my beloved cookbook, but luckily it has to do with the indexing and not with the recipes. And indeed, Ottolenghi has given me a new perspective on brussels sprouts - stir frying! Why hadn't I thought of that before? This recipe combines brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and tofu with a sweet and spicy sauce. You still get the delicious browned bits that come with roasting, but this stir fry turns brussels sprouts into a quick and flavorful main course.

Are you a fan of brussels sprouts?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Delicata squash stuffed with wild rice

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This freakishly warm weather is awesome, but confusing. I mean, yesterday I was wearing my winter peacoat, and today I wore a tank top. It feels like summer, but the leaves are turning colors. And I'm posting about winter squash when it feels like we should be eating corn and tomatoes. But I guess even if the temperature says otherwise, it's still fall.

This is the first winter squash dish I've cooked this season. I'd been seeing recipes for stuffed squash pop up on some other blogs, and was inspired to create my own take on it. I love the combination of wild rice and mushrooms in a vegetable stuffing, so I went with that and flavored it with the "Scarborough Fair" herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. This recipe takes a while to make, as both the squash and rice take some time to get fully tender, but it is worth it. It's flavorful and satisfying, with a nice mix of textures. I think it would make a great vegetarian addition to a Thanksgiving table.

How have you been enjoying these unexpectedly warm days?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pear galette with dried fruit and nuts

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Remember when I made this quiche? Well, I ended up with quite a bit of leftover dough, and it seemed like a shame to throw it away, considering all the butter effort and more butter time that went into it - Julia Child's pastry dough should not go wasted! So I rolled the scraps into a ball and stuck it in the freezer, figuring I could use it for something else later. A few days later, I found myself with an excess of fresh pears, and decided to use the pastry dough to make some small pear tarts. I didn't want any fussy shaping or blind baking, so I decided to go with rustic free-form galettes, which don't require a special pan and could easily be made into a customized size based on how much dough I had. I also decided to add honey, dried fruit (cranberries and raisins), and nuts to the pear filling, inspired by a baked apple recipe from Around My French Table that I recently tried. I wasn't thrilled with how the baked apples came out, but I loved the combination of flavors and textures that came from the dried fruit and nuts, and thought they would add a nice dimension to the galettes.

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These galettes came out so, so good! The pastry was flaky and crisp, even on the bottom of the galettes, and the fruit/nut filling had a fantastic blend of flavors and textures. I especially liked the way the tart dried cranberries worked with the sweet fruit and honey. I am never going to throw out pastry dough scraps again - in fact, I might make dough just to keep in the freezer for impromptu desserts like these!

How have you been using fall fruit?

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cottage pie

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I don't usually post meat-based dishes on this blog, but now that fall has arrived and temperatures are starting to drop, a hearty, comforting meat-and-potatoes recipe seemed appropriate. Our freezer is stuffed with meat from our CSA and I've really enjoyed trying out new recipes for the various cuts of meat that we receive. We recently got some lamb sausage, which I decided to use for this cottage pie, adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Hachis Parmentier recipe in Around My French Table. While the original recipe uses beef stew meat and pork sausage, I used ground beef and lamb sausage. This is comfort food at its best - warm, tasty, and filling. I especially enjoyed the thin layer of cheese that topped the mashed potatoes, which formed a nice crust as the pie baked. Cooking and eating this cottage pie today has made me finally accept that fall is here for real, and I'm ready to enjoy the beauty of the season and the foods that go with it!

What is your favorite comfort food for when the weather turns cold?

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Roasted red pepper and eggplant dip

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Earlier this week, Elina hosted a fun get-together for some of her blogger friends. She asked everyone to bring an appetizer to share, and since it was a midweek event, I knew that I wanted to make something that wasn't too complicated, would be easy to transport, and didn't need to be cooked or heated immediately before serving. I also wanted to make something vegetarian, preferably vegan, and gluten-free, so that everyone would be able to try it. And finally, I wanted to make something featuring seasonal vegetables because I thought it would be nice for my dish to really reflect the theme of my blog. Well, that long list of requirements pretty much ruled out the apps I've made for my own parties in the past, so I started looking at new recipes. When I found this roasted red pepper and eggplant dip recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook, I knew it was perfect. The best part was that it is supposed to sit in the fridge for at least a day before serving so that the flavors can blend, which meant that I could make it over the weekend!

I loved the balanced blend of flavors in this dip - it has sweetness from the roasted veggies, tanginess from the lemon, and a bit of a kick from the garlic and chile pepper. It's great with pitas or crackers, but it also makes a nice addition to pasta sauce and pairs really well with eggs. Although I was initially nervous about what dish to bring for a group of foodies, I think I chose wisely and I was glad to see that everyone else seemed to enjoy the dip as much as I did. I'm definitely going to think of this one next time I need a simple but interesting appetizer for a party!

Do you have a favorite dish to bring to potluck gatherings? 

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gorgonzola-apple quiche

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I love apples. When I was a kid, my dad would let me pick out 5 or so items (anything I wanted) from the supermarket as incentive for keeping him company while he did the grocery shopping, and a bag of apples was always in my top 5. I realize now that I was a really weird good kid - I can only hope that my future children will be just as good at choosing healthy food over junk! Anyway, fresh apples is one of the things I love most about fall in New England. So many varieties to try, each with unique flavors. Last weekend, after I picked up several pounds of apples from the farmers' market, I realized that I'd never get through them all unless I started cooking with them in addition to just eating them plain. This Gorgonzola-apple quiche from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table was the first recipe that caught my eye. I love the combination of Gorgonzola cheese and apples in salads and now I can report that it works just as well in quiche. The quiche really was lovely - very tasty, though not quite traditional, with chunks of sweet-tart apple, salty cheese, and sweet onions. It only used up one apple though...I might have to make it a few more times to get through the rest of the ones I bought!

Do you have any savory apple recipes to share?

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Broccoli-almond soup

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I was feeling mildly sick yesterday, and that combined with the rainy weather made me feel like having soup for dinner. I wasn't sure what type of soup I wanted so I turned to my cookbooks for inspiration. I came across this recipe in Soup For Every Body, a cute little cookbook that I had picked up at a yard sale a year or two ago but had never actually cooked from. Joanne's recent post on cashew-tomato soup got me interested in soups using nuts, and this broccoli-almond soup seemed like the perfect way to use the broccoli I had bought at the market that morning. You may remember that I tend to think of broccoli as a boring vegetable, so I'm always happy to find interesting new ways to use it. This soup was very good - the toasted almonds thickened the soup and gave it a nice nutty flavor, and ground coriander added a warm spiced note that I really enjoyed. It made a perfect healthy but filling meal - give it a try if you're looking for a lighter alternative to cream-of-broccoli or broccoli-cheddar soup.

What is your favorite fall soup?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Honeyed tomato butter

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This is the second batch of preserves that I made with summer fruits, along with the peach butter that I blogged about not long ago. This tomato butter is a very unique spread that makes you remember that tomatoes are indeed fruits. Fresh, juicy tomatoes are combined with spices and honey into a spread that is somehow both sweet and savory at once. I'm very curious to see if a taster who wasn't aware of the ingredients could figure out that this is made with tomatoes - for me the taste is rather mysterious. It's definitely fruity, but our tastes buds aren't used to associating tomatoes with this kind of jammy sweetness, and I think the tomato flavor is hard to pinpoint. It's very tasty though, and a nice way to preserve summer tomatoes. This spread is absolutely delicious with bread and cheese, especially blue cheese. I think it would also be great with pork, chicken, or fish. Tomato season is almost done, so hurry up and make this now! You'll thank yourself in the winter.

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