May – Lentils and Roast Cauliflower with Almonds and Dates

May – Lentils and Roast Cauliflower with Almonds and Dates

This is a wonderful vegetarian or vegan main dish, or a side dish for a large party. It’s perfect when you have folks with different dietary needs, also being gluten and dairy free. And because it is served at room temperature, you can make it several hours ahead. It will only get more flavorful as the lentils absorb the tahini sauce. What more can you ask for? On one platter you have your greens, roasted vegetable and starch/protein. The dates add a sweet note while the almonds add crunch and even more protein.

I served this to a large gathering, the leftovers the next day were still yummy (and didn’t last long).

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Lentils with Roast Cauliflower, Chopped Dates, and Almonds

The original recipe came from Food and Wine, but it came to me about a year ago via one of the members of my book club. It’s been hanging out just waiting for the right time to make it.

I have given two measurements for the spices. The original recipe used the smaller amount but I found it was not sufficiently spiced for my taste. Cauliflower is quite mild and can absorb a lot of flavor.

This recipe serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup beluga or green lentils, rinsed and checked for small stones
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1 inch florets
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, briefly toasted in a dry frying pan
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • 10 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups loosely packed arugula or baby spinach

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds on a pie plate or sheet pan and toast for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. When cool, coarsely chop.
  2. Increase the oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. Meanwhile heat 2 cups of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and add the lentils. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and cool.
  4. Prepare the cauliflower. On a rimmed baking sheet toss the cauliflower florets with 1/4 cup of olive oil, the spices (cumin, cinnamon, ginger, salt, pepper. Roast until tender and slightly browned, about 20-25 minutes. When cooked to your liking, remove from the oven and cool.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the tahini with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until smooth. Add the lemon juice, honey or maple syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water.  Mix well.
  6. Add the lentils to the bowl and toss to coat.
  7. On a large platter lay a bed of the lentils, top with the roasted cauliflower, dates, almonds, and sliced onion. Sprinkle the arugula or baby spinach on top and serve.

 

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November – Raisin Cornbread Sausage Stuffing or Dressing

November – Raisin Cornbread Sausage Stuffing or Dressing

I briefly considered calling this Ma Barnes’ stuffing, the last remnant of a brief first marriage at the tender age of 21. The original recipe came from my ex mother-in-law. She was from Wisconsin and her stuffing had a definite midwestern, no-nonsense appeal.  In my own hands it has undergone many variations, especially once I moved to the west coast. But, you can still detect the bones of that first recipe in this one. Some of my adaptations have been more successful than others…chestnuts added (couldn’t really detect them), walnuts (nice crunch but not needed), artichoke hearts (that was an interesting year, kids weren’t crazy about them), Italian sausage (spicy, non-spicy, chicken – all delicious), no sausage (vegetarian version), olive oil instead of butter, currents instead of raisins, and lastly the addition of cornbread. I think you get the idea. I am going to give you the most current iteration, the one that finally stuck. However feel free to adapt it to match your families taste.

The addition of cornbread was what elevated this recipe to a new high. Ma Barnes used crumbled hamburger or hot dog rolls and poultry seasoning, I did the same for the first few years. It was good. But, magic happened the first time I added cornbread and herbs de Provence. It went from simply good to “Oh my!” and “Can I have thirds?”. Now I use about half  torn stale brioche or ciabatta bread and half cornbread. The cornbread gives additional texture and depth of flavor. In my family the holiday meals are all about the stuffing and/or dressing. I have to make enough to last for several days; it’s the first thing that they look for when they open the refrigerator the morning after Thanksgiving. This dressing is the heart of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner…forget the turkey.

I am using the terms stuffing and dressing interchangeably. But technically it is called stuffing if stuffed inside your turkey or other bird, and dressing if cooked outside the bird in a casserole. I started out cooking it only as a stuffing, but there was not enough copious leftovers. Now I either do both, or cook it entirely as a dressing. It is good both ways. And it is excellent reheated with a poached or fried egg on top, makes an excellent sandwich with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce, and an over the top panini with cheese and turkey.

Speaking of turkey, this is the year I have discovered sous-vide. Stay tuned for sous vide turkey. But that is a discussion for another post, probably after Thanksgiving but in time for Christmas. Aren’t you impressed by all the bloggers who cook a full holiday dinner weeks before the actual event so they can write and photograph a holiday dinner? I sure am. I admit to being more of a ‘just in time’ blogger, or even ‘after the fact’ blogger. I will only be way ahead of the game for 2018!

If you are a regular reader, you might notice that this is not the first time you have seen this recipe. It was first posted it in January of 2015 under the heading of Friday Chicken. I think it would be difficult for you to find, and it deserves a post all of its own. Check out the link above to the Friday Chicken post if you have time. It is a great trick (borrowed from Richard Olney and Vincent Price) to stuff a chicken under the skin before roasting. I have done the same with a turkey, however the longer cooking time means that the skin can easily burn. You do get an extremely flavorful bird, but you have to watch it very carefully.

You can buy prepared cornbread from a bakery or grocery store (try not to use one that is very sweet). Or, you can make your own. This year I am using a recipe from the frugal hausfrau for Southern Skillet Cornbread. You will need about half a recipe for the stuffing; save the rest for serving with a bowl of chili or soup Yum! I am not going to reprint her recipe. You can follow the link to see Mollie’s post. I did change one thing, because I was going to use it in the dressing, I substituted 1/4 cup butter instead of the drippings or vegetable oil called for in her recipe. Wouldn’t bacon fat be wonderful? Oh my! But this doesn’t need it because you already have the sausage. I think it would be over kill.

Take a look at this cornbread…

Southern Skillet Cornbread from the frugal hausfrau

If short on time you can always use a boxed cornbread mix, they aren’t half bad. Your stuffing will still be delicious.

Raisin Cornbread Sausage Stuffing or Dressing:

  • 4 tablespoons of butter, plus more if needed
  • 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, either bulk or removed from casings
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Pinch or red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 fresh brioche rolls or other soft bread, torn into pieces
  • 8 oz. of cornbread, crumbled
  • 2 small handfuls of golden raisins or currents
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper as needed
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of turkey or chicken stock if baked outside the bird

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet.
  2. Add the sausage, crumble it into small pieces as it browns.
  3. Add the onion, celery, Herbs de Provence, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes.
  4. Stir and continue to sauté on medium heat until the onion and celery are softened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile tear the cornbread and brioche bread into 3/4 inch pieces in a large bowl, you don’t want them too small.
  6. Add the raisins and mix.
  7. When cooked and while still warm, add the contents of the skillet to the large bowl and mix well. Taste for salt, you want it well seasoned.
  8. If the contents look dry (it depends on how much fat is in your sausage), add another 2 (or more) tablespoons of butter to the skillet to melt. Then add it to the bowl. Ma Barnes would add as much as a full stick of butter at this point.
  9. Cover and bake immediately as per numbers 10 and 11 below, or set aside to cool. In my household that needs to be far away from the edge of the counter and out of reach of the dogs. Once cool you can refrigerate it for a day. Keep your last minute stress level down and prepare it the day before the holiday.
  10. If using as a dressing: When ready to bake as a dressing (outside the bird), preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the stuffing in a shallow casserole dish and add the stock. You want the bread to be moist but not swimming. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until hot, about 30 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to 425 degrees F and crisp the top. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn although those charred crispy bits are my favorite.
  11. If using as a stuffing: When ready to cook your turkey, heat the stuffing in the microwave until very hot. Using clean rubber gloves, stuff the turkey inside both the body and neck cavity. Truss and bake immediately. The hot dressing ensures food safety, you will also find that your turkey will also need less time in the oven. Be sure to check the doneness frequently with an instant read thermometer.

Sausage, onions and celery with seasonings sauteed in butter

Cornbread, Brioche and Raisins combined in a large bowl

Ready to bake or stuff into turkey, wet ingredients added to the dry

Finished baked Dressing

Moist on the middle but crisp on the top, it was delicious.

I baked this in the afternoon to post, took some photos, and went out to dinner with a couple of friends. The dressing was left on the stove to cool.

This is what was left when I arrived home a few hours later…

Demolished

It wasn’t the dogs either.

Enough said, I don’t think you can have a better recommendation. I think I need to make a quadruple batch for the holiday meal.

I am co-hosting this week’s Fiesta Friday, #198. It’s always fun to have several stuffings/dressings to choose from and I think this one will be a hit. Come see all the delicious offerings at this week’s party by clicking on the FF link, it will take you to our host, Angie’s. My cohost this week is Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com. Her sausage gravy will go well with my offering.

November – Perfect Roast Potatoes for Thanksgiving

November – Perfect Roast Potatoes for Thanksgiving

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish? Is it the pies? Or stuffing? Or mashed potatoes? What about sweet potato casserole? Growing up my favorites were the stuffing (sausage and sage), and these roast potatoes. My English mother was famous for her roast potatoes, crisp and brown on the outside and floury on the inside. I know that mashed potatoes are the classic side to turkey here in the US, but I strongly suggest you try these. They are also a fantastic side for roast chicken or vegetables, or a replacement for french fries. My family prefers these to french fries and claim they are as good with ketchup as gravy.

I am going to share a few of secrets to success. First pre-boil the potatoes, second rough them up a bit before roasting, and third use a pre-heated roasting pan. Those three tips will ensure that crisp outside and fluffy inside.

You only need three ingredients:

  • Russet potatoes or baking potatoes – 1 for each person
  • Some kind of oil or fat, olive oil is good, duck fat is fantastic (sad to say, my mother used Crisco)
  • Good salt, sea or kosher

Method:

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut each into 6 wedges. I cut them in half lengthwise, then each half crosswise into 3 sections. You want fairly large pieces.
  2. Put the potatoes in a pot and cover with cool water by about an inch, add a teaspoon of salt to the water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil on medium-high heat, turn down the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Immediately drain into a mesh screen colander in the sink.
  5. Cool slightly, then shake the colander to “rough” up the potatoes. You want the surface of the potatoes scratched. See the pictures below. This helps them crisp.
  6. Potatoes, boiled and roughed

    Potatoes, boiled and roughed

    Potatoes, ready for roasting

    Potatoes, ready for roasting

     

  7. When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  8. Oil a large baking or roasting pan and place it in the oven to preheat. You want the entire bottom of the pan to be coated with cooking oil. The pan should be large enough so that the potatoes are not crowded. I usually use olive oil, but this time I had found a treat.

    Duck Fat

    Duck Fat

  9. Once the pan is nice and hot, carefully remove it from the oven. Add the potatoes, turning them to coast with the oil or fat. Spread them out in the pan. Sprinkle with salt.
  10. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, turning the potatoes after 30 minutes.
    Roasted potatoes in the pan

    Roasted potatoes in the pan

    Crispy oven roast potatoes

    Crispy oven roast potatoes

    We usually don’t have any leftover, but they are good for breakfast the next day with eggs. Reheat them in your oven on low heat (not the microwave).

August – Fruit and Cucumber Salsa

August – Fruit and Cucumber Salsa

I don’t think summer is the season for fancy cooking. It is the time for salads of all kinds, melon and prosciutto, yogurt with fresh fruit and berries, juicy sliced tomatoes, BBQ, veggies on the grill, and chilled wine. The spotlight should be on highlighting the glory of the best local and seasonal ingredients, cooked (or not cooked) with a few fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

That being said, sometimes the food needs a little embellishing. Maybe you are expecting company or it is a special holiday weekend. I want to introduce the idea of a fruit salsa to go with those amazing grilled dishes. We are all familiar with a tomato based salsa but peaches, nectarines, watermelon, and mangos all make excellent salsas. If you live in Hawaii or the tropics, pineapples are also a good choice (I don’t think they are worth eating elsewhere…sorry Dole).

fruit salsa

fruit salsa

Use whatever is freshest and perfectly ripe but not mushy. This is a very loose recipe but I will give some general directions. I think the essentials are sweet, crisp, spicy heat, sharpness, acid, and salt. In the salsa shown above the peaches provide sweet, the cucumber is crisp, the chilis are heat, the onion sharp, and lime juice acid.

Ingredients

  • Fresh fruit, cut into cubes – I used 4 peaches
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled if necessary and cubed to the same size
  • 1 – 2 hot chilis – seeded and cut into small cubes, I used 1 jalapeno and 1 small red chili
  • 1/2 red onion – chopped finely
  • squeeze of lime juice
  • salt to taste

Again this is a very flexible list. If you have a ripe avocado, add it. What about a mix of fruit? Watermelon with tomatoes is a winner. Apples would be good in the fall. Have some fresh basil on hand? Wonderful! Cilantro? Yum! Mint? Oh my! See what I mean?

Notice that there is no oil in this salsa? None is needed. It is a good way to get an extra serving of fruits and vegetables deliciously without any additional fat.

Peach and Cucumber Salsa

Peach and Cucumber Salsa

I am taking this to share at Fiesta Friday #131, hosted by Angie. This weeks co-hosts are Su @ Su’s Healthy Living and Laura @ Feast Wisely. Click on the link to read the posts and join the party.

December – Traditional Sausage and Raisin Stuffing

December – Traditional Sausage and Raisin Stuffing

I thought I would repost this recipe from last January in time for Christmas. It’s the traditional stuffing we serve at Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. You can bake it in the bird as a stuffing, place it under the skin (see the pictures below), or bake it in the oven as a casserole (then it becomes technically a dressing).

Click on the link to Friday Chicken for directions on stuffing your chicken under the skin. As you can see from the picture below it results in wonderful crisp skin plus an amazingly moist and well flavored chicken!

Traditional Sausage and Raisin Stuffing or Dressing

  • 4 tablespoons of butter, plus more if needed
  • 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, either bulk or removed from casings
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Pinch or red pepper flakes
  • 2 fresh brioche rolls or other soft bread, torn into pieces
  • 8 oz. of cornbread, crumbled
  • 2 handfuls of raisins (golden or dark) or currents
Stuffing

Sausage and Raisin Stuffing

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet.
  2. Add the sausage, crumble it into small pieces as it browns.
  3. Add the onion, celery, Herbs de Provence, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes.
  4. Stir and continue to sauté on medium heat until the onion and celery are softened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile tear the cornbread and brioche bread into pieces in a large bowl.
  6. Add the raisins and mix.
  7. When cooked, add the contents of the skillet and mix well.
  8. If the contents look dry (it depends on how much fat is in your sausage), add another 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet to melt. Then add it to the bowl.
  9. Cover and set aside to cool. In my household that needs to be far away from the edge of the counter and the reach of the dogs.
Friday Chicken

Friday Chicken After Roasting

Baked Dressing

  1. Put the remaining stuffing (not used in the bird or under the skin) into a baking dish, add about ¾ cup of chicken stock and cover the dish with foil.
  2. When the chicken has baked for 35 minutes, add the stuffing to the oven.
  3. Bake covered for 25 minutes, then uncover until the top has browned and is crisp.
  4. Serve with the chicken.
Raisin Stuffing

Baked Stuffing with Sausage and Raisins

This stuffing is exceptional. Over the years I’ve changed it to reflect the changing tastes of my family and friends. The original “seed” recipe came from my (now ex) mother-in-law in Wisconsin. She used hamburger rolls, poultry seasoning, margarine, and raisins. The raisins have remained as a crucial part of the recipe.

Use any leftover stuffing in sandwiches, in a strata, in a waffle, as a “bed” for poached eggs, or in a bread soup (the cornbread and brioche will thicken the broth beautifully). It is worth the time to make this stuffing simply for the leftovers!

Panini with stuffing

Stuffing Panini

The panini above was made with raisin stuffing (regular dark raisins), cranberry sauce, red onions, and mozzarella.