Another Incredible Brussels Sprouts Recipe!

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Brussels Sprouts are such a wonderful vegetable! They suffered from serious dislike for so many years and are finally getting their due appreciation. I continue to fill my cooking repertoire with new ways to serve them. This recipe happens to be one of my all time favorites and was voted one of the best items at our recent Red Barn Kitchen – Thanksgiving Culinary Boot Camp series. I adapted it from a Food & Wine dish by Michael Symon and it would be a perfect item for your holiday table! This recipe, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta with a Caper-Anchovy Vinaigrette is another incredible brussels sprouts recipe.

I like to use Boquerones (white anchovies) in this dish as they have a more subtle flavor and are less salty than regular canned anchovies. You will find Boquerones at your local fish market, or sold preserved in a glass jar or tray at a gourmet grocer. Boquerones will last for a long time in the refrigerator as long as they remain immersed in olive oil. They are barely detectable individually in this recipe but are necessary in completing the flavor combination for the vinaigrette. I promise, you will be amazed at how wonderful these ingredients fuse together to make a spectacular dish!

One of the best things about this recipe is that the brussels sprouts and dressing can be made up to 4 hours ahead and kept at room temperature. Rewarm the brussels sprouts and then toss them with the vinaigrette and add the nuts just before serving. It is also an easy recipe to increase for a larger quantity.

Brussels Sprouts

ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND PANCETTA WITH A CAPER-ANCHOVY VINAIGRETTE

Serves 10

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 4 oz Pancetta, chopped
  • ¾ cups extra-virgin olive oil, (plus 1/2 Tbsp)
  • Salt and freshly ground
  • pepper
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2-ounce Boquerones (white anchovies), minced

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425•. In a large bowl, toss the brussels sprouts with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the brussels sprouts on 2 large rimmed baking sheets and roast for about 25 -30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and charred in spots; shift the pans halfway through roasting.
2. In a small, dry sauté pan, heat the walnuts until lightly toasted and aromatic, shaking the pan to ensure even cooking. Transfer to a plate to cool. Using the same pan, add 1/2 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped pancetta and cook until golden brown and crisp. Remove the pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels. Once the walnuts are cool, then coarsely chop the nuts.
3. In the large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the mustard and honey. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of oil until emulsified. Add the capers, garlic, shallots and anchovies; season with salt and pepper. Add the brussels sprouts, pancetta and walnuts and toss well. Serve.

(Printable recipe can by found in my recipe index under Side Dishes)

Toss That Tired Old “Green Bean Casserole” Recipe and Try This!

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IMG_4656Over the years I have updated my Green Bean Casserole recipe many times. I went from frozen Green Beans to fresh, from Campbell’s Mushroom Soup, to Trader Joe’s  Cream of Portabella Mushroom Soup and from grocery store French Fried Onions to Trader Joe’s Gourmet Fried Onion Pieces. Then I came across Thomas Keller‘s recipe for Green-Bean Casserole—Oven-Baked Haricots Verts With Cream of California Cèpe Mushrooms and Crispy Shallots and that is where I landed and that is where I will stay!

So that being said, there are several steps to his recipe and you can certainly deviate in many areas. If you’re like me, you have to go all the way for the “real deal”! Otherwise, you can substitute a good brand of fried onions on top or minimize the steps in the mushroom sauce by cooking all of the mushrooms together in the cream sauce, but whatever steps you take towards this recipe, you will have a vastly improved and much more heavenly Green Bean Casserole at the end! 

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GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE – OVEN-BAKED HARICOTS VERTS WITH CREAM OF MUSHROOMS AND CRISPY SHALLOTS

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Adapted –  Thomas Keller 

Servings
8 people 

Ingredients

20-24 medium size mushrooms, assorted (I used crimini, shitake and oyster)
1 quart plus 4 tablespoons canola oil 
1 clove garlic, finely minced 
1 yellow onion, finely minced 
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, finely minced 
2 Tbsp Sherry
2 cups chicken stock 
1 cup cream 
1 ½ cups flour 
2 tablespoons butter  
Salt and freshly ground white pepper 
Juice of 1 lemon, to taste  
2/3 cup kosher salt 
2 ½ pounds haricots verts, cut at an angle into 2-inch pieces
6 large shallots, peeled  

Instructions

  1. Cut the bottom half of the stem off each mushroom and cut the base into a 1/4-inch dice. (I didn’t use the shitake stems as they are bitter, so I added a few whole crimini mushrooms and diced them with the rest of the stems)  Slice the remaining mushrooms into slices and uneven chunks and reserve. 
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large frypan. Add the diced mushroom stems, garlic, and onions, and sweat until the onions are translucent. Add the thyme, stock, and cream, and bring to a boil. Mix 1/4 cup of flour with the butter (softened) in a small bowl to form a paste. Remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly whisk in the butter-and-flour mixture until incorporated. Return the sauce to a simmer and cook gently for 10-15 minutes, whisking constantly to prevent the bottom from burning. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. 
  3. Bring 7 quarts of water to a boil, add kosher salt, and return to a fast boil. Add haricots verts and blanch until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the beans and chill in ice water. Drain again, and dry the beans on paper towels. 
  4. Add 1 quart oil to a large saucepan and heat to 325 degrees. Holding the shallots at the root end, slice very thinly on a mandoline. Place the shallots in a mixing bowl, add the flour, and toss together until the shallots have separated into rings. Add the shallots to the saucepan in batches and fry, stirring constantly, until they are lightly browned. (Watch them closely, they go to lightly browned in an instant after cooking a while) Drain, place on paper towels, and season with salt. 
  5. To finish, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sauté the reserved mushrooms in 2 tablespoons oil until golden brown. Add the Sherry to deglaze the pan and cook for a couple minutes.  Transfer the mushrooms and haricots verts to the mushroom sauce pan and mix together. Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. Transfer to an ovenproof casserole dish and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the crispy shallots on top to serve.

Note

  • It is very important to chill the green beans in ice water right after blanching them. This creates a bright green bean and keeps them from overcooking as the heat will continue to cook them if you don’t take this step. The difference is amazing!
  • If you don’t have a mandoline, you can easily slice the shallots by hand. If you want to stabilize those little round buggers, just slice them down the middle, lay them on their flat side and slice them thinly in half slices. After being fried, you won’t really notice if they are half or whole and it won’t affect the taste. The larger the shallots, the better they look as rings on top!
  • Try not to cut the mushrooms in identical sizes as the variation will look more natural and less like processed mushroom soup.

(Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Side Dishes)

A Talley Mistake Makes the Best Soup Ever!

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When I saw these cute little Orange Peppers in my Talley Farms CSA box, I was intrigued. On their box – fun facts letter, they said they grew them by mistake but were glad they did. And so am I! These little peppers make the best soup ever!

I wanted to use them in a soup that incorporated Mediterranean flavors to pair with a menu that was filled with spices and vegetables from that region. Ginger and fennel seed were the perfect combination to achieve that goal for me. With the color of the peppers, adding some turmeric into the soup was an excellent way to result in the most beautiful golden-orange color of creamy deliciousness!

The best part of this recipe is that there is no need to spend time roasting and peeling the peppers. They are chopped and sautéed in a pan and blended directly into the soup base to form a luscious texture. I suggest you go easy on the heat with the cayenne pepper and taste as you go. The ginger adds heat to the soup so the cayenne takes it to the next level and you want to be careful not to overly spice it. However, it you make an error and overspill the cayenne, a little pinch of sugar will assist you in calming down the heat.

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GINGER-FENNEL ORANGE PEPPER SOUP

I served this soup in a recent cooking class that I held and it got rave reviews!!
 
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds sweet orange bell peppers (or any other color or combination of sweet peppers)
  • 4 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium potato (about 4 ounces), peeled and chopped
  • One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 5-5 1/2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5-6 tablespoons heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Chop the peppers coarsely after discarding all the seeds. Pour the oil into a large, wide pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the peppers, onions, potatoes, ginger, fennel seeds, turmeric, cumin, and 1/8 tsp cayenne. Add additional cayenne to taste. The ginger creates some heat as well, so you may want to limit the amount of cayenne, as I did. Stir and fry until all the vegetables just start to brown.
  2. Add 2 cups of the stock and the salt. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer gently for 25 minutes.
  3. Ladle the soup in batches into a blender and blend until smooth. (Alternately, you can use an immersion blender and blend the soup right in the cooking pot) Pour the blended soup into a clean pot. Add the remaining stock, thinning the soup out as much as you like. Add the cream and mix it in. Adjust salt, as needed. Heat through before serving.
Note
  • I served the soup with a dollop of créme fraîche and a sprig of fennel fronds
(Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Soups) 

A Great Combo with Spaghetti Squash and Kale

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Believe it or not, I had never cooked Spaghetti Squash before and always wondered what it was like. I received one in my CSA box along with a bunch of black Lacinto kale. (also known as Tuscan or Dinosaur kale) I thought they might compliment each other well, so I searched for a recipe that combined the two and sure enough, I found a recipe that created a great combo with Spaghetti Squash and Kale!

This recipe included sausage and our local butcher makes the best varieties, so I selected an Apple Honey Pork Sausage to include in the dish. The instructions supported my favorite way of starting vegetables by roasting the squash in the oven. I don’t think there is an easier way to cook vegetables or a better way to bring out their flavor than roasting them. Other than a stir or two, you generally don’t have to do anything when roasting vegetables except watch that you don’t burn or overcook them!

The recipe was very simple and it resulted in a yummy, extremely healthy dish. Definitely a keeper!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale

ROASTED SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH SAUSAGE AND KALE

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • One 3-pound spaghetti squash
  • 3/4 pound apple honey pork sausage (or any favorite sausage)
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 cups thinly sliced kale (remove the center ribs before slicing)
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh marjoram (or oregano)
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a sheet pan with parchment or Silpat.
  2. With a sharp chef’s knife, slice off 1/2-inch from the ends of the spaghetti squash. Then stand the squash up on one of the ends to stabilize it, and cut the squash in half, top to bottom. Scoop out any seeds and stringy bits inside, and place the squash halves cut-side down on the lined sheet pan. Poke the tops of the halves with the tip of a sharp knife.
  3. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until you can easily poke the sides of the squash with a fork. Remove from oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Then using the tines of a fork, scrape out the “spaghetti”-like strands of the squash to a bowl.
  4. Pinch and remove small chunks of sausage from the sausage casings to a plate.
  5. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Add the sliced kale and cook for a minute or two. Add the sausage, and cook without stirring, until the sausage starts to brown, then stir and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage bits are cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Add the spaghetti squash strands to the sausage mixture and stir to combine, cook until the squash is heated through, about a minute.
  7. Remove from heat and add the grated Parmesan cheese and marjoram. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (make sure you taste before seasoning as the sausage may have added its own heat and the cheese may have added salt) Serve immediately.

 (Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Side Dishes)

 

An Awesome Recipe for Brussels Sprouts!

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Brussels Sprouts are one of the most liked and disliked vegetables around. All of the nay-sayers I have come across are converts once they have tried any of my brussels sprouts recipes, of which I have many! I truly believe that most of the dislike comes from the old fashioned way people used to make them by boiling them and serving them like over-cooked rubbery tasteless balls. That is easily resolved by cooking them any number of ways usually incorporating some sort of roasting or pan frying to create a nice caramelized and toasty finish to them. I recently came across a new recipe on a blog that I like to follow and it is an awesome recipe for brussels sprouts!

I had previously been testing a recipe for pumpkin rolls and had an ample amount so I decided to dry out a few and make bread crumbs out of them. They became the perfect topping for this new creation. The recipe is for Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Gratin and it is simply devine! I pretty much believe that adding bacon to just about anything makes it better and it especially compliments brussels sprouts. However, I also have several great brussels sprouts recipes that don’t include meat for those who prefer to eat vegetarian style. I will be posting them in the days ahead.

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BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND BACON GRATIN

Serves 8

For the Brussels Sprouts:
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
6 ounces bacon, cut into ¼-inch dice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¾ teaspoon salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream

For the Topping:
1 cup pumpkin bread crumbs (you can use plain bread crumbs as well)
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and adjust oven rack to high position. Remove the outer leaf layers of the Brussels sprouts, slice off the stem ends, and then halve them lengthwise.

2. In a medium bowl, toss together the Brussels sprouts, bacon, melted butter, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.

3. Meanwhile, toss together all of the ingredients for the topping in a small bowl; set aside.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and pour the cream over top of the Brussels sprouts; use a spoon to toss together, ensuring all of the sprouts are coated in cream. Arrange them again in a single layer in the pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of the Brussels sprouts. Return to the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the cream is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Brown eyed Baker

(Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Side Dishes)

Getting Versatile with Padron Peppers!

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One of the best new discoveries I’ve made is Padron Peppers. They are so delicious and simple to prepare, it’s easy to get stuck serving them the same way over and over. However, the fickle side of me just won’t allow that, so I had to start getting versatile with padron peppers!

Padron Peppers are small peppers (about 5 cm long), with a color ranging from bright green to yellowish green. Their peculiarity lies on the fact that, while their taste is usually mild, a minority (10-25%) are particularly hot. Whether a given pepper ends up being hot or mild depends on the amount of water and sunlight it receives during its growth.

Here are four different ways to enjoy your Padron’s:

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 Blistered Padron Peppers, sauteed in olive oil, seasoned with salt & and garnished with lemon zest. Simple and delish!

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 Goat Cheese Stuffed Padrons wrapped in Pancetta, stuffed and roasted with no need for seeding or peeling; these little tapas sized tastes are yummy and a delight, served as a passed appetizer.

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 Padron Pepper, Avocado & Cheese Omelet. I kept the Spanish influence on this and made my omelette with Manchego cheese topped with a drizzle of Chipotle Hot Sauce.

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 Fritter Roulette. A recipe from one of my favorite chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi. They are fritters made with shredded butternut squash and fresh corn kernels that have padron peppers fried right into them for a unique appearance and a fantastic taste!

I have posted the detailed recipes for each of these variations. Just select the title and it will link you to their individual recipes to view and/or print.

Send me a note… I’d love to know what you do with your Padron Peppers!

(Printable recipes can be found in my recipe index)

The Cutest, Most Scrumptious Apple Dessert Ever!

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I found this recipe in a post on Facebook and couldn’t resist trying it. Much to my delight, the finished product turned out even better than how yummy and mouth-watering it looked in the photo. It is quite easy, although a bit time consuming – but worth the effort. I will also show you how to make it as a one  dish dessert, removing all of the effort and keeping all of the deliciousness!

These little wonders are called Caramel Apple Crisp Bites and they are as adorable as they are compact; easily offered as an individual serving for a large group. However, make sure that you make extra, because although one is sufficient to satisfy a sweet tooth, your guests will most surely be coming back for more.

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CARAMEL APPLE CRISP BITES

Ingredients

  • 2 cup graham cracker crumbs (I used store bought in a can.  I find these to work the best)
  • 12 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples (I used granny smith)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Caramel topping (store bought!)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease pan with non-stick butter spray
  3. Melt butter
  4. In a medium size bowl mix graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and butter with a spoon
  5. Evenly distribute mixture to the 24 mini muffin cups. Press along the bottom and sides to make a “cup”
  6. Bake for 5 minutes and let cool completely
  7. Chop the apples into little pieces – I used a food processor.  Don’t puree, just finely chop
  8. Mix apples, sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl
  9. Bake in a baking dish for 15 minutes on 375 degrees, until apples are slightly softened (No need to grease the dish as the apples will create enough liquid to keep it from sticking)
  10. Scoop a teaspoon or so of the apple mix and place on top of the graham cracker crust cups (while still in the muffin pan)
  11. Sprinkle any extra graham cracker on top of the apples (I had some left over!)
  12. Bake for 5 minutes on 350°
  13. Let cool completely
  14. Use a knife to loosen from pan and they should pop right out
  15. Drizzle with caramel topping
  16. Enjoy

Notes

  1. I used my Apple-Peeler-Corer and it worked wonderfully to prep the apples. I cut the slices in half and then chopped them the rest of the way in the food processor.
  2. The recipe is easily doubled or tripled. If you are making a lot, borrow some extra muffin tins as the waiting time for cooking and cooling will keep you there too long if you don’t have extra.
  3. Make sure you cool them before you try to remove them from the muffin cups or they will stick. Once cooled, they easily pop out!

Variation

  1. To make this into a single pan dessert, eliminate the bottom crust. Prepare your apples. (I just cored and cut up unpeeled Gala apples into large chunks and did not pre-cook them.) Spray a 9×11 pan with butter spray, add the apple chunks and cover with the graham cracker mixture. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until browned and crisp on top and the apples are fork tender. If the top starts browning too much before the apples are fully cooked, cover lightly with foil to finish cooking.
  2. Drizzle caramel sauce on top and serve warm with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

(Printable recipe can be found in the recipe index under Desserts)

 

Homemade Hummus; so easy and delicious!

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I am a huge fan of HUMMUS and pretty much like almost any flavor and kind, but nothing compares to making it yourself. It’s really amazing how quick and simple it is. Honestly, homemade hummus is so easy and delicious to make, there’s no reason not to try it yourself!

The Flavor Choice is Yours!

The best part about homemade hummus is that you can flavor it any way you like. Try a little roasted garlic, sun dried tomato & olive, or jalapeño cilantro. The choices are endless. One of my favorite recipes for hummus is with roasted red peppers, so that is what I did this time. Roasted Red Pepper and Green Onion Hummus.

Homemade Roasted Red Peppers

Homemade Roasted Red Peppers

Dried or Canned – It’s all Good!

I happened to have some dried chickpeas in the fridge so I soaked them overnight and cooked them to use in my hummus. I often make hummus with canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans) as well, so not to worry if you don’t have the dried version. It will still be substantially better than anything you would buy in the store ready-made!

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ROASTED RED PEPPER AND GREEN ONION HUMMUS

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas (results in 3 cups cooked chickpeas) OR 2-15 oz cans chickpeas (this will give you a little more than 3 cups but you can use some as garnish or save for a salad)
  • 3 medium red bell peppers
  • 3 green onions, sliced white and light green parts only
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil plus extra for serving and basting peppers
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

Directions

  1. Soak 1 cup dry chickpeas overnight in a bowl of water about 2 inches above the top of the beans. Rinse and place in a medium saucepan with fresh water again about 2 inches above the beans. Heat to simmer and cook for about an hour or until the beans are tender. Add more water if needed as it cooks down. Alternately use canned chickpeas and drain & rinse well, reserving the extra above 3 cups for garnish or another use.
  2. Coat the outside of the peppers lightly in olive oil and grill or broil until blackened on all sides. Immediately place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let cool for 10-15 minutes and then remove the skin with your hands. Discard skin, stems, seeds and membranes and cut peppers into large pieces.
  3. Place the tahini and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add the garlic, green onions, 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, cumin and cayenne and process for 30 seconds, scrape sides and bottom with spatula and process for another 30 seconds or until mixed well.  Add 1/2 of the chickpeas and blend for 1 minute, scraping as needed. Add the other half of the chickpeas and blend for another minute. Add the red peppers and blend until smooth. Salt to taste and season with extra lemon juice or oil as needed for the correct flavor and consistency.
  4. Place the hummus in a storage container. I like to cover the top of the hummus in plastic wrap so that it touches the surface. This keeps it from drying and looking discolored on the edges. Cover with the container top and refrigerate until cool.
  5. When ready to serve, heat about 1 Tbsp oil in a small fry pan. Add pine nuts and cook until just barely turning golden. Immediately remove from heat and pour into a ramekin to cool. Top the hummus with the oil coated pine nuts, drizzling extra pine nut oil on top. Serve with vegetables and pita chips.

Note:  Hummus can also be used as a sandwich spread, on burgers or other grilled meat sandwiches, in deviled eggs, with pasta, spread on bagels, as a sauce for kabobs and countless other ways!

What other ways can you think of to use hummus? I’d love to hear from you!

(Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Appetizers)

 

Simple Strategies for Pairing Wine with Vegetables

Simple Strategies for Pairing Wine with Vegetables


 
 
 
Click To EnlargePhoto: 

Vegetable Gardener Newsletter
by Andrea Immer
February 1998
from issue #13
White with fish, red with meat, says the rule of thumb. But what to drink with vegetables? Cookbooks and wine merchants are ready sources for wine suggestions with meat, fish, and fowl. But the garden path is surely a road less traveled when it comes to wine advice. Yet could there be two more natural tablemates than wine and vegetables? Both are products of a very magical conversion—soil and sun into flavor.

As a restaurant sommelier, and as a home cook and herb gardener, I have worked both sides of the wine and food pairing equation. Sometimes the point is to highlight a special wine. Other times the garden or greenmarket presents some absolutely perfect seasonal produce to which the wine should pay tribute.

Always the goal is to transform the earth’s gifts into a pleasurable dining experience. With that in mind, I’ve discovered some simple tools to which I return time and again.

Wine-loving vegetables

Certain vegetables and herbs virtually always complement wines; some can transform single dishes and even whole meals into a showcase for a special wine. The major wine-loving vegetables are shallots, leeks, corn, peas, fava beans,and mushrooms; and among herbs and adjuncts, thyme, sesame oil, and gently cooked garlic.

One of my favorite pairings is a creamy sweet-corn polenta with a full-bodied, oak-aged California Chardonnay or French white Burgundy, also 100% Chardonnay. With their blockbuster fruit and oaky richness, such wines are absolutely seductive. Those same virtues, however, can simply clobber many dishes, vegetable or otherwise. But enter the creamy, cheese-enriched polenta—a textural mate for the wine’s expansive, mouth-filling style—and you’ve got a match made in heaven. For subtler, less oaky Chardonnays and Burgundies (try French Chablis and Pouilly-Fuissé, or New York, Washington State, and Oregon Chardonnays), substituting fresh goat cheese for some of the Parmigiano Reggiano in the recipe adds a tangy note that synchronizes beautifully with the more elegant wine style. Either way, this pairing is a perfect showcase for both the wine and the sweet corn.

But now shuffle the cast of characters. In a supporting role to other produce, wine-loving vegetables and seasonings can be integrated as a fantastic bridge to wine. Because wine is a staple of meals in my home, the following ingredients and techniques have become integral to my cooking. For the garden-centered cook who loves wine, they are a boon.

Shallots—I admit it: I am a shallot junky. Their ability to convert virtually any vegetable into a friend of wine is nearly fool proof. Culinarily, there is nothing novel about this approach; shallots are a cornerstone of many classic French dishes, all geared to complement wine. Applying this trick to vegetables, given their flavor diversity, is a watershed for the garden cook-cum-wine lover.

To instantly link vegetables to wine, gently sauté minced shallots to softness in butter or olive oil. Then, simply toss in your favorite fresh vegetables—either raw if they are quick-cooking or, for denser ones, after pre-cooking. The shallots form a subtle, earthy-sweet bridge to wines, white and red. A little salt amplifies the effect. An added touch is to deglaze the shallot pan with a bit of the wine you’ll be serving. Here are a few of my favorite applications for the shallot trick. 

With lighter-bodied, soft red wines like Italian Barbera and Chianti, Spanish Rioja, or American Pinot Noir, toss fresh tomatoes briefly in the shallot oil and serve as a salad; or cook them a bit longer and use as a sauce for pasta. In early summer, a pick-and-choose sauté of baby turnips, squashes, green beans, fava beans, peas, and mushrooms works well. In spring or fall, make your sauté of greens such as chard, bok choy, broccoli raab, or collards.

With crisp, dry whites like Sauvignon and Fumé Blanc, Mâcon, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling, I like a southwestern-style sauté of sweet corn, red and green peppers; or fresh spinach; or carrots with cumin or tarragon.

Garlic, thyme, and olive oil—This trio is another great bridge. I learned this technique from our Windows on the World culinary team. Simply start by sautéing minced garlic and thyme in olive oil over low heat, taking care not to burn the garlic. You can then incorporate vegetables in a variety of ways.

Vegetable sautés, especially of leafy and bitter greens, tomatoes, squashes, eggplants, and mushrooms seem perfect for summer. With their Mediterranean/ Provençal flavors, these sautés pair beautifully with both reds and whites from Provence and the Côtes du Rhône region, red Spanish Rioja, and Chianti.

In cooler weather, baked, braised, or puréed root vegetables and winter squashes take to this method nicely. Turnips, leeks, both white and sweet potatoes, carrots, fennel, beets of any color, pumpkin, and the whole range of winter squashes all work well. Toss chunks of the vegetables in the oil mixture, then bake or braise them until tender. The resulting flavors are earthy, satisfying, and very wine friendly. For an elegant presentation, moisten the vegetables after cooking with a little vegetable stock and purée (try cauliflower this way, too). Or add a little more stock and some milk or cream for a gorgeous, velvety bisque (stunning with squashes, pumpkin, or sweet potatoes). My favorite wines with the root vegetables are earthy, medium-bodied reds such as Pinot Noir, Chianti, and Spanish Rioja. The squashes and sweet potatoes make a beautiful match with aromatic whites such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Gewürztraminer.

Wine-friendly cooking techniques
Here’s another approach to bridging vegetables to wine. “Reductive” cooking, which reduces the water content of the vegetable and caramelizes the natural sugars, can enhance the wine compatibility of vegetables that may be tough to pair.

Grilling brings out a smoky sweetness and can tame a tendency to bitterness in vegetables such as peppers, squash, eggplant, and fennel. Tomatoes are often thought to be tough wine partners due to their acidity. But oven-drying them, or cooking them into a confit (peel and seed, then slow-cook in a pan with a little butter until the excess moisture has evaporated) concentrates their flavor and also coaxes out their natural sweetness, making them a great partner to a much broader range of wine styles.

Versatile wines

There are some wines whose style (medium body, little to no oak, mouthwatering acidity) and structure (dry and crisp) make it hard to go wrong pairing them with vegetables.

Among whites, try Alsatian dry Rieslings and Pinot Blancs. Italian dry whites like Pinot Grigio, Orvieto from Umbria, Soave from Veneto, or Ver­nac­cia from Tuscany are good.

Dry rosés (distinct from off-dry blush wines) are extremely versatile with all food, and often inexpensive. Try France’s Provence and Côtes du Rhône rosés; Italian rosés such as Regaleali Rosato from Sicily; Spanish rosés from Navarra such as Chivite, Vega Sindoa, and Las Campanas; and American dry rosés like Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare or McDowell Grenache Rosé.

For reds, choose Chianti and Barbera from Italy; Spanish Rioja and Navarra wines labeled crianza, meaning they have minimal oak aging; or French Beaujolais.

Beware the wine zappers.
 Every day I am given food menus to which I am asked to pair wines. I used to brace myself for the worst—asparagus and artichokes are infamous among wine lovers for their chemical component that clashes with most wines, leaving an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth. Herbs, greens, pungent and bitter vegetables, and tomatoes also present challenges.

But I have found that the versatile wines listed above at least hold their own with these foods. The dry rosés and Italian whites in particular seem to have a zesty bite that meets these aggressively flavored vegetables head on.

A final word on pairing wine and vegetables. It is not really necessary to “think” about a wine and food pairing. In the wine-drinking world, most people choose a wine out of habit and what’s handy, and that works just fine. But the fun of a thoughtful wine and food pairing comes into play when you have something special on your hands, something whose virtues you want to showcase and savor. And that is the essence of the garden cook’s mission—to capture flavor at its peak. Why stop short of the beverage? By its very nature, no other liquid flatters the earth’s bounty better than wine.

Great combinations
Herb or vegetable and wine matches you can rely on:

• Chardonnay or French white Burgundy and sweet corn; mushrooms.
• Red Zinfandel and basil, especially as pesto.
• Pinot Noir or French red Burgundy and beets.
• Cabernet Sauvignon or red Bordeaux and rosemary.
• Sauvignon Blanc or Fumé Blanc and dill, cucumber, celery.
• Dry rosés with salads of herbs and baby lettuces or pungent greens like radicchio, arugula, and endive.


Roasted and Caramelized with a Remarkable Aioli

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I love the padron peppers and brussels sprouts that I receive in my CSA box and think that they are little jewels from heaven. They are both very well suited for either pan frying or roasting with the basic olive oil, salt and pepper mixture and are absolutely delicious eaten just like that. No muss, no fuss. However, the fickle side of me always wants to find something different along with a way to elevate the ingredients to new heights. So what did I do this time? I roasted and caramelized them and served them with a remarkable aioli!

black-garlic-home

I had been in San Francisco and visited one of my favorite sites; The Ferry Building. There, you will find a cadre of incredible vendors selling the most delicious and wonderful wares. One of my favorites there is Far West Fungi. It is a merchant who sells a wonderful selection of fresh and dried mushrooms along with other related items. It was there that I purchased my head of black garlic. Black garlic is sweet meets savory, a perfect mix of molasses-like richness and tangy garlic undertones. It has a tender, almost jelly-like texture with a melt-in-your-mouth consistency similar to a soft dried fruit. This was the second recipe that I made using it (the other to be posted next – Heirloom Tomato & Summer Squash Tart.) However, not to worry, because if you aren’t planning a trip to San Francisco soon, you can get almost the same result from roasting a regular head of garlic which will create a sweet and savory flavor with a similar soft dried fruit consistency.

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OVEN ROASTED PADRON PEPPERS & BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BLACK GARLIC AIOLI

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. padron peppers, stems removed
  • 1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed and cut in halves
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cloves black garlic
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. Coat the peppers and brussels sprouts with 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Carefully stir the vegetables and continue to roast for an additional 10-15 minutes or until they start to caramelize and turn crisp on the edges. 
  3. While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the aioli. Mash the cloves of garlic with a dash of Kosher salt. Whisk in the egg yolk and lemon juice until you can see black flecks but no chunks of garlic visible. Slowly add the Extra Virgin olive oil and whisk to emulsify. Season with additional lemon juice and salt/pepper to your taste.
  4. Serve the aioli with the roasted vegetables.

Note:  If you don’t have black garlic, follow these instructions to roast a head of regular garlic and use 4 of the cloves, reserving the others for another recipe or to enjoy slathered on a piece of toast with a light sprinkling of flake salt!

roasted garlic

  1. Preheat oven to 400°
  2. Peel off the loose skin
  3. Cut off the top of the head so the garlic is exposed on top
  4. Make sure all cloves are exposed by using a paring knife to tip off the top of any hidden cloves
  5. Place a piece of tin foil underneath and drizzle about 1 tsp of olive oil over all of the exposed cloves
  6. Wrap the head in the foil and place on an oven safe dish
  7. Roast in the oven for 35-55 minutes until the cloves are golden in color
  8. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes and gently squeeze the cloves out of each skin

(Printable recipe can be found in the recipe index under Side Dishes)