Occasional Decadence

My father had many sayings that he would repeat when the mood suited him; but my favorite was, “All things in moderation, including moderation.”  I pretty much live by this code.  I don’t apologize for the occasional desert or rich dish; their just soooo yummy!  This one is no exception.  Cream, pancetta, and garlic take Swiss chard to another level entirely.  You could make it with bacon, but why not hit a home run rather than a base hit?  The first time I made this for my green’s hating brother-in-law, he took seconds (twice).  Another time my nephew pulled the casserole to his place setting and wondered what everyone else was going to eat.  It’s tradition at Thanksgiving, but I can’t help making it at least once a month during the winter season.

SWISS CHARD CASSEROLE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I use ciabatta)
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 slices pancetta, diced
  • 2-3 bunches Swiss chard, wash and spun, stems removed and chopped into 1/4 inch slices (approximately 2 1/2 cups); leaves cut into ribbons (approximately 8-12 cups
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and toss it with the breadcrumbs; set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and garlic to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 8 minutes, reducing the volume slightly.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, in a 12 inch non-stick skillet, cook the pancetta over medium heat until crisp and browned.  Drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon of the fat in skillet.  Add remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to skillet and melt.  Add the chard stems and saute over medium-high heat until they are soft and slightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add chard leaves.  Saute chard for about 3-5 minutes or until wilted.
  4. With tongs, transfer the chard to a gratin or ceramic dish, leaving any excess liquid in skillet.  Spread evenly.
  5. Sprinkle pancetta over chard.  Pour the seasoned cream over chard.  Sprinkle pancetta over cream and chard; top with buttered bread crumbs.  Bake until golden and bubbly, about 25-35 minutes.  Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4-6

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”Comfort food—food that reassures—is different things to different people.”  –David Tanis

Anyway You Slice It

I eat a lot of salads.  I never tire of the crunch factor.  The winter is a great time to step outside the box and look for salads that don’t rely on lettuce as the main ingredient.  I usually look for seasonal, stable vegetables; and brassicas are an easy solution.  Every thing from cauliflower, to broccoli, to cabbage offer creative and healthy options for salads with a seasonal flare.

Another thing to keep in mind is to include a variety of textures, color and flavor profiles.  Sweet against salty, is one I often use to help keep it interesting.  This salad has all the elements that I enjoy.  It’s colorful, crunchy, sweet and salty all at the same time.  It has great staying power and lasts for several days in the refrigerator.

Red Cabbage Salad with Dates and Feta

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 small red cabbage (or half of a large one), halved, cored, then quartered and sliced very thin
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1.  In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Taste and adjust with more lime juice and salt.  It should taste well seasoned.  Let macerate on counter for 30-45 minutes, to slightly soften cabbage.
  2. Toss dressed cabbage with half of the dates. and feta.  Arrange in a bowl or on a platter, and sprinkle the rest of the dates and feta on top.  Garnish with parsley and toasted almonds.

Serves 4-6

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 “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.””

 

Rotisserie Double-take

I recently posted a recipe for a fool-proof pie crust.  I’m sure all of you put that extra crust in the freezer for another use right?  Well, here you are; a cap for a delicious, rich chicken pot pie.  If not, the recipe is added here.  Remember to freeze half of it for your next adventure.  I remember the pot pies my mother used to buy on sale at the grocery store in their individual tins.  The crust was as dry as dust, and the contents inside made you want to skip it altogether.  This one will not only turn your head, but will end up on a regular rotation in your kitchen.  It’s so good you can even feel confident serving it to guests.  The really good news is that you save yourself extra time by picking up a rotisserie chicken on the way home, and your half way there!

BRICKYARD FARMS CHICKEN POT PIE

INGREDIENTS FOR MAMA JAN’S PERFECT PIE CRUST:

  • 3 cups flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Fine Pastry Flour)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
  • ¾ cup butter. cut in pieces
  • 1/3 cup shortening, cut in pieces
  • ½ cup ice water

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Pulse flour, 2 tablespoons thyme leaves, sugar and salt in a processor.  Add butter and shortening; pulse until crumbly.  Add ice water and pulse until it forms a ball.  Dust silicone baking mat with flour; place ball on mat and cut in half.  Wrap one half in plastic wrap.  If using for this pot pie, you may roll it out immediately; place other half in freezer for future use.
  2. Roll out in a circle a little larger than the dish you are using for your pot pie.  A large souffle dish works well.  Cut a small opening to let steam out (I use a small cookie cutter)  Refrigerate rolled out crust for 15 minutes.  Roll loosely around your rolling pin and place on top of your pot pie when you are ready to use it.

INGREDIENTS FOR FILLING:

  • 4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups red-skinned potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch chunks
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces on the diagonal
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, sliced thin & washed
  • 6 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.  In large, high-sided skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally for 4-5 minutes, or until the potatoes start to turn golden.
  2. Add leeks, carrots and mushrooms, and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes more.
  3. Add your flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Add your milk and chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Cook until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add reserved chicken pieces, parsley, remaining 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, lemon zest, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Mix thoroughly.
  5. Fill you souffle dish, or ceramic dish with pot pie filling.
  6. Make your egg wash of 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon heavy cream.
  7. Roll your crust around a rolling pin and drape over pie.  I then use my rolling pin to trim off extra crust.  You may fold extra crust underneath the border, if you prefer that type of look.  If you have used your cookie cutter, place removed piece next to opening.
  8. Brush crust with egg wash.  Place dish on cookie sheet and bake for 35-40, until crust is golden.  Serve hot.

Serves 6

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“Sometimes a little comfort food can go a long way.”

Roll On!

Involtini is an Italian word for various small bites of food consisting of some sort of outer layer wrapped around a filing.  It can be made with a wrapeer of meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables, with fillings like cheese, vegetables, cured meats, and nuts.  In this case the wrapper is zucchini and the filling is ricotta, pesto, and fontina.

For me, the definition of comfort food is smelling something luscious coming together in the kitchen.  Since I consider the kitchen to be the heart of the home, I love making dishes that catch people’s attention when they come in from outside.  This dish packs a flavor punch, yet won’t weight you down.  I make it with my homemade roasted tomato sauce, but you can easily substitute canned crushed tomatoes.  If you can, try to find locally raised grass-fed lamb; it’s leaner and more flavorful.  This dish can be made ahead up to 12 hours and reheated.  It can also be doubled for a crowd.  Serve with a simple salad tossed with vinaigrette and you’re in business.

STUFFED ZUCCHINI INVOLTINI

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb or sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I like San Marzano)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (slightly more if you enjoy more heat)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 large zucchini
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • 1/2  cup basil pesto, homemade or store-bought
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil, ribboned for serving

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish or dish of similar size.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.  Add Italian sausage or ground lamb, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  Cook until no longer pink.  Reduce the heat to low, add the bell pepper, tomatoes, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, along with salt and pepper.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, using mandolin or vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch wide strips and lay them flat on a paper towel lined counter.  You should have about 30 strips.  Sprinkle the zucchini with salt.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, fontina, and 1/2 cup pesto.
  5. To assemble, spoon the tomato meat sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Place two zucchini ribbons on cutting board side by side, and slightly overlapping lengthwise.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling onto the zucchini.  Roll into a coil and place each seam-side down in the dish as you go.  Repeat with remaining zucchini.  Top with mozzarella.  Cover with foil.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted.  Remove foil and broil for 3-5 minutes to lightly brown.  Cook 5 minutes and top with ribboned basil and thyme leaves.

Serves 6

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“If you cook Italian food, why should you go to a restaurant?”  –Martin Scorsese

The Flavorful Earth

Many years ago, when I was 10 years old, I made my first pie crust.  I had read the ingredients incorrectly and accidentally switched the salt and sugar amounts, making the pie virtually inedible.  Since then I have used refrigerator pie crusts with similar results;  they too were tough, tasteless and inedible.  I love tarts, pies and galettes and wanted to master these at home.  My reluctance to make homemade pie crusts continued until 2 months ago when my surrogate mother Mama Jan Burian offered me a solution.  I had always admired her baking skills and shared with her that pie crusts intimidated me.  She gave me her perfect pie crust recipe.  “It’s virtually foolproof!”, she told me.

Although slightly skeptical, with the encouragement of Mama Jan, I knew I had to try again.  After making the very first one, I regretted getting stuck in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.  My god, it was foolproof!  I am now delighted to report that there is no turning back!  I’m obsessed with savory galettes.  This one has become a favorite; and can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It comes together quickly and has had favorable reviews.  Thanks Mama Jan!!

SAVORY MUSHROOM GRUYERE GALETTE

MAMA JAN’S PERFECT PIE CRUST

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Fine Pastry Flour)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • ½ cup ice water

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pulse flour, sugar and salt in a processor.  Add butter and shortening; pulse until crumbly.  Add ice water and pulse until it forms a ball.  Dust silicone baking mat with flour; place ball on mat and cut in half.  Wrap each half in plastic wrap.  If using for a one crust pie or galette, place one half in refrigerator for one hour; place other half in freezer for future use.
  2. Remove wrapped dough from refrigerator and let stand for 10-15.  Unwrap and place on lightly floured silicone baking mat.  Roll out in a circle of about 16 inches in diameter.  Roll loosely around your rolling pin and place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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FOR FILLING:

  •  2-3 medium sized shallots, minced
  • 2 12 ounce packages white button or crimini mushrooms, or a mixture of both, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup white vermouth
  • Kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 8 ounces finely shredded Gruyere or Comte cheese
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large non-stick skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add shallots and saute until soft, about 6-8 minutes.  Add mushrooms, then thyme leaves and continue to saute as the mushrooms start to sweat out their moisture.  After about 10 minutes add your white vermouth, salt and pepper.  Continue sauteing until most of the moisture is evaporated from pan.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Place your finely shredded Gruyere cheese in a 12 inch circle in the center of rolled out crust; leaving a 2 inch border.  Place your mushroom mixture on top of Gruyere.  Gently fold over border making occasional pleats where necessary.
  3. Brush with beaten egg.  Place in over for 35-45 minutes; or until crust is golden and mushrooms are bubbly.  Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting.  Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 2-4

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“I learned that a galette is sort of the offspring of a pie and a tart- halfway between homespun and fancy- but easier to make than its parents. The biggest difference is that a galette is a free-form pastry, baked without a pie pan or tart ring. It’s rustic. And it’s forgiving. You just roll it out flat and then fold it in roughly around the filling.”                       —Viola Shipman

Shepherding In Comfort Food

When I think of comfort food, it’s usually something warm and savory that I can place in a bowl and eat out of hand in my lazy girl.  Mac and cheese fits into this category as do soups, stews and shepherd’s pies.  Traditionally, a shepherd’s pie consists of ground meat under a layer of mashed potatoes.  Mmmm….sounds a little boring doesn’t it?  In an effort to get out of that box, I was inspired by the elements of piccadio which include ground meat (in this case lamb) tomatoes, olives and spices.  My favorite home-made spice mixture called ras el hanout (inspired by North African cuisine),  along with golden raisins to add a sweet element.  Top with mashed sweet potatoes and you have a meal at once, savory, sweet and satisfying.

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NORTH AFRICAN SHEPHERD’S PIE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1  pound grass-fed ground lamb
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup green olives, pitted and halved (I use Castelvetrano)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste, plus 1/2 cup water
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat, saute onion and garlic until soft.  Add ground lamb and break up with the back of a spoon.  Add ras el hanout and brown completely about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add tomato paste and water and combine, cooking until slightly thickened.  Add olives and golden raisins.  Stir to combine.  Take off heat, let cool slightly, then spoon into a gratin dish or 9×9 casserole dish.  Set aside.
  3. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place sweet potatoes in pot with water to cover and salt.  Bring to a boil, and simmer until tender when pierced with a paring knife (about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Drain potatoes and mash with butter and half and half (adding more half and half if needed, but not enough to make it soupy).  Spread sweet potato mixture over lamb mixture for about a one inch depth (you may or may not have left over sweet potatoes).   Bake for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
  5. Let rest for 10 minutes.  Serve.

Serves 4

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“Food is the most primitive form of comfort.”

Anyway You Slice It

I absolutely love Mediterranean food.  No matter if it’s from Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Spain or France, I love it all.  Fresh vegetables, legumes, olives, olive oil, cheese and an array of spices make for endless savory meals.  I find that if something you eat is truly satisfying and delicious, you eat less not more.  This Middle Eastern Tart can be served as an appetizer or entree, depending on whether or not you use both sheets of puff pastry, and how many you are serving.  Served with a salad, it is easily a complete meal.  It comes together pretty quickly and is showy enough for company.  The first time I made it there was left-over filling, which I stuffed into peppers and baked the next day.

MIDDLE EASTERN LAMB TART

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 or 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, choppped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked chick peas (I use canned and drained)
  • 2 teaspoons ras el hanout (page    , or alternatively 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a saute pan over medium heat add olive oil, onion and garlic until soft, about 3-4 minutes.  Add ground lamb, breaking up the lamb with a spoon and brown, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, olives and spices.  Simmer for about 5 minutes or until heated through.  Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (two baking sheets if using both puff pastry sheets).  Roll out slightly, then make a one-inch rimmed line on the inside edges with a knife, taking care not to cut all the way through.  Prick the dough with fork all over in center area.  Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and spoon mixture evenly in the center of each pastry sheet.  Top with feta cheese, brush pastry edges with beaten egg (optional) and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until puffed and edges are golden brown.
  4. Top with chopped parsley and cut into desired portions; 4, 6 or multiple if serving as appetizer.  Serve.

Serves 2-4 as entree

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“Cooking is like love.  It should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.” –Harriet von Horne.

 

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