Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thai Red Curry Squash Soup

When faced with pounds and pounds of beautiful organic squash from my CSA, my thoughts immediately turned to soup, and strangely specifically, curried soup with coconut milk. A quick search through Food and Wine recipes revealed that I am certainly not the only one to think of this as a perfect combination and was delighted to fine a recipe from Joanne Chang, owner of Flour Bakery and Cafe and co-owner of Myers + Chang with her husband, Christopher Myers, both in the Boston area. Although I've not been lucky enough to visit Boston and dine at either of her restaurants, I have had great succcess with her recipes in the past and I have immense respect for her diverse skills as a baker, pastry chef, and chef. My opinion of her is also greatly elevated by the fact that in every TV appearance she seems like a truly wonderful person with no ego and is a Harvard graduate who left her career to pursue a passion for cooking, one of those dreams that is constantly swirling around in my head. 

But on to the food! The sweetness of butternut squash is the perfect foil for curry spices, and the coconut milk makes everything irresistably creamy and smooth. I tend to eat a copious amount of soup in the winter, particularly since I started getting my winter CSA and this is nice change of pace from minestrone-type soups and dense stews (though they most certainly have their place, as well). The soup is unmistakably hearty and satisfying, but the Asian spices and ingredients keep the soup light and bright. When the days turn even colder, this soup is a fabulous taste of warm lands far, far away to transport you from the icy winds and dark skies of winter.

Thai Red Curry Squash Soup
serves 12 (as a first course)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger, plus 1 cup slivered fresh ginger
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
3 pounds kabocha, kuri or buttercup squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
5 cups water
Two 13 1/2-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
2 lime leaves or 1 teaspoon lime zest
1 large stalk of fresh lemongrass, smashed and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large scallions, thinly sliced

1. In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter. Add the onion and sliced ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 7 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the squash and water and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until soft, 25 minutes. Add the coconut milk, lime leaves and lemongrass, cover partially and simmer for 30 minutes longer. Discard the lime leaves and lemongrass.

2. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender; add it to a clean pot. Stir in the sugar and lime juice and season with salt.

3. In a medium skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the slivered ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown and crisp, 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the ginger to paper towels to drain.

4. Reheat the soup; ladle it into bowls. Garnish with the fried ginger and scallions and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Smoky Greens and Beans over Polenta

When it's cold outside, I crave hearty meals like this one. A hot, buttery, cheesy bowl of polenta topped with hearty greens and creamy beans is the perfect comfort food for the dark days of winter-balanced and nutritious, but still rich and savory, and just plain soul-satisfying. I've been in a bit of rut lately with kale, pretty much just roasting it every chance I get (see here, here, here, and here) because, as is so often the case, I get a little obsessed with a particular ingredient or preparation. And while I'd never turn down some roasted kale, I like to broaden my horizons a little bit and try something different. I've made a soup similar to ribollita with kale and white beans in the past and really enjoyed it, and this dish keeps the delicious, classic combination of white beans and kale, uniting them with velvety polenta. It's not quite a stew, but whatever you'd like to call this dish, it's a pure bowl of cold weather comfort. Don't have any polenta? The kale and bean mixture would still be delicious over barley, rice, or even pasta. Not a fan of kale? Spinach would make a fine substitute, though the cooking time for the greens would be drastically reduced. Hopefully this recipe will provide a little inspiration for your winter menu, when it's all too easy to get stuck in a meat-and-potatoes rut.

Smoky Kale and Beans over Polenta
adapted from Bon Appetit, via Epicurious
serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 141/2-ounce can vegetable broth
8 ounces coarsely chopped kale
1 15-ounce can cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup polenta (I like Bob's Red Mill)
3 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving

1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice and paprika; stir 1 minute. Add broth and greens; bring to boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until greens are wilted and tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans and simmer 1 minute to heat through. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

2. Meanwhile, bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium pot over medium to medium-high heat. Slowly add polenta, stirring constantly, and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, until polenta is thickened. Remove from heat, stir in butter and Parmesan cheese, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide polenta between four bowls and top each with one-fourth of the bean and kale mixture. Grate additional Parmesan cheese over the top, if desired, and serve hot.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Butternut Squash Salad with Blue Cheese, Cranberries, and Walnuts

If you spent your Thanksgiving stuffing yourself to the gills with all manner of delicious foods (as you should) the way I did, you may be feeling a bit sluggish today and looking to lighten up your diet a bit over the weekend, while still enjoying leftovers. If you have any leftover squash, particularly butternut, this salad is an absolutely fantastic way to use it up. I did not create this salad to use up leftover squash (just to make a dent in the ample supply I got in my CSA box), but I thought it was the perfect recipe to share after Thanksgiving, particularly on a year like this with such unseasonably warm temperatures where a salad wouldn't seem so out of place on the dinner table. Creamy, sweet butternut squash pairs exceptionally well with pungent blue cheese, rich, crunchy walnuts, sweet-tart dried cranberries, and assertive red onions for a fresh, but hearty plate of harvest flavor. The massive salad allows you to chow down on a huge plate of food with all the fervor of a Thanksgiving meal without doing nearly as much damage to your diet. While you can't argue with the classic uses for Thanksgiving leftovers (it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a cold turkey sandwich the next day), hopefully this novel use can find a way into your holiday weekend dining as well.

Butternut Squash Salad with Blue Cheese, Cranberries, and Walnuts
serves 1

8 ounces butternut squash, cut into small cubes
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces spinach or salad greens, washed, and chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 ounce blue cheese
Salad dressing, for serving (I recommend balsamic vinaigrette)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss squash cubes with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake squash for approximately 30 minutes, tossing occasionally, or until squash is just tender.

2. Meanwhile, place greens or spinach on a large plate and top with red onion, cranberries, and walnuts. Once the squash has finished cooking, place the warm squash on top and crumble blue cheese on top of the warm squash. Drizzle with salad dressing and serve while squash is still warm.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Potato and Leek Soup

As hard as it was for me not to go back to the simple perfection of Julia Child's Potage Parmentier, which I have made time and time again, I thought it was about time I gave another leek and potato soup recipe a try. This recipe, like Julia Child's, is the height of simplicity. Every time I take a bite of leek and potato soup I am amazed at the depth of flavor in a dish with so few ingredients so I saw no reason to choose a more complicated recipe for my first foray away from the genius of Julia Child. And, as you can probably guess since I've decided to share, I was not at all disappointed by this recipe, even if it doesn't quite hold the special place in my heart that Julia's recipe does. Yet again, the simple combination of potatoes and leeks has come together in a perfect bowl of comfort that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Pureeing a small portion of the soup gives the soup a luscious creaminess, but maintains the hearty, rustic texture of the chunky potatoes and leeks. I can't explain exactly what makes potato leek soup so irresistable to me, but something about blending starchy, hearty potatoes and sweet, delicate leeks is absolutely transcendent. Your effort will be rewarded many times over with if you invest just a little bit of time and effort to make this delicious soup, as perfect for busy weeknight as it is for the first course at your Thanksgiving dinner.

 Potato and Leek Soup
from Gourmet, via Epicurious
serves 2, generously

the white and pale green part of 2 large leeks, split lengthwise, washed well, and chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound boiling, potatoes
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large heavy saucepan cook the leeks in the butter with salt and pepper to taste, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are softened but not browned. Add the water, the broth, and the potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice, and simmer the mixture, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. 

2. In a blender purée 1 cup of the soup, stir the puré into the remaining soup with the parsley, and season the soup with salt and pepper.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Do-It-Yourself Power Bars

In my renewed quest to find recipes for more homemade treats for my morning snack instead of commercial granola bars, I came across this absolute gem of a recipe from Heidi Swanson. Her recipes are the kind that make you crave healthy food, these power bars being no exception. The toasty walnuts and sweet-tart cranberries are perfectly accented by the subtle zing of crystallized ginger in these vibrant bites of flavor and nutrition. The original recipe called for just cooking down the brown rice syrup mixture, but I baked mine for a while to set them a bit more and add a little toasty, crunchy texture to these chewy bars. And as with so many recipes I try, this one is ripe with possibilities for experimentation-raisins and sunflower seeds, dried cherries and pecans, maybe even chocolate chips and coconut-the possibilities are nearly endless. Although there's not always to make everything I'd like to from scratch, recipes like this one make me happy to invest a little extra effort.

Do-It-Yourself Power Bars
adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
makes 16 to 24 bars

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 1/4 cups chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 cup oat bran
1 1/2 cups unsweetened crisp brown rice cereal
1 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving ample overhang to serve as handles, and grease coconut oil or canola oil baking spray. If you like thick power bars, ope for an 8 by 8-inch pan; for thinner bars, use a 9 by 13-inch pan.

2. Mix the oats, walnuts, oat bran, cereal, cranberries and ginger together in a large bowl and set aside. Combine the rice syrup, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly as it comes to a boil and thickens just a bit, about 4 minutes. Pour over the oat mixture and stir until the syrup is evenly incorporated.

3. Spread mixture evenly into the prepared pan and press firmly. Bake, rotating once, until the top is golden brown, about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on personal preference. Remove pan from oven and allow to cool until room temperature. Remove the granola bars from the pan using the parchment or foil sling and cut into whatever size bars you like.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Red Cabbage with Apricots and Balsamic Vinegar

I'll admit that cabbage isn't a vegetable I often purchase, but when a head of beautiful red cabbage showed up in my CSA box, I was more than happy to search for some interesting recipes and cook it up. Cabbage typically means one of two things to me-crunchy, fresh, Asian-style slaw or a soft, long-cooked accompaniment to sausage (typically enjoyed with a cold beer). This time, I went with a recipe closer to the latter route, but this cabbage dish isn't your average sausage companion. Striking the perfect balance between sweet and sour, the apricot preserves and balsamic vinegar play off each other beautifully, each bite bursting with bright flavor. The acidity and sweetness of this dish is a perfect companion to rich and fatty sausage, the contrast between the two dishes keeping each bite new and interesting. This dish is filled with a tremendous amount of flavor despite the short cooking time and will provide a bright spot on your dinner table, mingling perfectly against the heartier fare often served during the dark and cold days of winter.

Red Cabbage with Apricots and Balsamic Vinegar
from Bon Appetit, via Epicurious
serves 6

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1 8-ounce red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1 1/2-pound red cabbage, quartered, cored, very thinly sliced
3/4 cup thinly sliced dried apricots
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1. Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, allspice and nutmeg and toss 1 minute. Add cabbage and apricots and sauté until well coated, about 2 minutes. Add apricot preserves and vinegar and toss until juices are reduced to glaze and cabbage is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Creamy Parmesan Polenta with White Beans and Roasted Kale

Did you get a chance to enjoy the wonders of Roasted Potatoes Colcannon with Eggs? If you did, here's another wonderful way to enjoy roasted kale, and if not, here's another way to further tempt you to give roasted kale a chance. This plate of Italian-inspired happiness came about on a night when I was feeling a bit lazy and uninspired and was hunting around for some nutritious components I could put together quickly for a balanced meal. Crispy, salty roasted kale is every bit as irresistible here with polenta as it is with eggs-the combination of salty, crispy kale and creamy, rich polenta is so delicious that you won't be able to decide if it is the kale or polenta you've started (or rekindled) a love affair with (and it's probably both). The creamy cannellini beans blend seamlessly into the rich and savory polenta with the kale providing the perfect crunchy textural contast. This dish can best be described as pure comfort and is sure to make many  more appearances on my dinner table in the coming chilly winter months.

Creamy Parmesan Polenta with White Beans and Roasted Kale
serves 2

1/2 pound kale-stems and ribs removed, leaves chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup polenta
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup prepared white beans, preferably cannellini, kept warm

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large bowl, toss chopped kale with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Spread in an even layer on a prepared rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until kale is browned and crispy, tossing occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, bring 1 1/2 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add polenta to saucepan, reduce heat to medium or medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until polenta is thickened. Remove pan from heat, stir in butter and Parmesan, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Divide polenta evenly between two plates, topping each mound of polenta with half of the beans. Place half the kale alongside on each plate and serve hot, scooping up some of the beans, polenta, and kale in each bite.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Butternut Squash Bars with Cranberries and Walnuts

Did you get a chance to make Pumpkin Raisin Oatmeal Cookies for a healthy snack last week? If you didn't have time or that particular squash isn't your cup of tea, let me offer up another suggestion-Butternut Squash Bars with Cranberries and Walnuts. The original recipe contains white chocolate and an excessive amount of sugar, but I've scaled these back to a slighty sweet snack rather than a saccharin dessert. The sweet butternut squash beautifully complements the nutty whole wheat flour, rich walnuts, and sweet and tangy dried cranberries in these delightful little bars, perfect with a cup of tea. The dark brown sugar and butternut squash add just enough sweetness to make these feel like a treat, but the whole wheat flour, dried cranberries, and walnuts make these filling and nutritious enough to serve as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon boost or late night guilt-free nibble. If you decide to take these bars on the dessert route, add just a bit more sugar and perhaps some (dark) chocolate, if you like, for a delicious fall treat.

Butternut Squash Bars with Cranberries and Walnuts
adapted significantly from Whole Foods
makes 12 bars

4 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 1/2 cups peeled and grated butternut squash
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with butter or canola oil spray; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, toss together squash, flour, cranberries, walnuts, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, whisk sugar and eggs together until pale and thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in butter and vanilla, then add flour mixture and stir together just until combined.

3. Transfer to prepared pan and bake until just set in the middle and golden brown around the edges, about 30 minutes. Set aside to let cool, then cut into 12 squares and serve.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spicy Carrot Soup with Goat Cheese

When faced with the task of using up a large cache of carrots before my first CSA delivery (where I, of course, got another hefty bag of carrots), I immediately thought of soup. I'll eat nearly any vegetable cooked with bit of sauteed onions, garlic, salt, and a few spices in some good vegetable stock and pureed to silky deliciousness for a hearty, healthy soup. High-quality vegetables (i.e. local and organic, if you can find and afford it) need very little help to be transformed into a delicious meal, but that doesn't mean that a beautiful vegetable soup isn't a perfect place to experiment with new flavor combinations. I started with the basic onions, garlic, salt, carrots, and vegetable stock and then looked into my cabinets and refrigerator for further inspiration. I (re)discovered a jar or harissa paste I picked up harissa paste at the farmers' market, the perfect spicy contrast to the sweet carrots. The refrigerator offered some Montchevre goat cheese, adding both creamy and tangy elements, creating a rich and nuanced soup. All of these flavors blend together into a smooth and comforting blend of spiciness, sweetness, tanginess and richness that brings out the best in carrots without burying their flavor. This fall and winter promises to be full of many bowls of comfort like this one, so if you like what you see here, stay tuned for the many more to come!

Spicy Carrot Soup with Goat Cheese
serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large or 2 small onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces goat cheese, cut into small pieces
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa paste, or to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, and garlic and cook until onions are softened, about 8 minutes.

2. Add stock to pan with vegetables and bring mixture to a boil. Simmer until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes, and remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. (Alternatively, puree soup in batches using a blender). With the soup off the heat, add goat cheese, whisking vigorously to blend completely. Add harissa paste, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, mixing thoroughly, to desired level of spiciness. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Roasted Potatoes Colcannon with Eggs

I'm a sucker for nearly any roasted vegetable, but recently I've renewed my love affair with roasted kale. All it takes is heat, olive oil, and salt and pepper to transform that robust green into a delicious salty snack as satisfying as any potato chip. But as much as I've been enjoying the massive piles of roasted kale I've been eating, I wanted to incorporate roasted kale into a more complete dish, instead of just enjoying it on the side.

When my husband is hanging out with the guys and I'm tasked with only feeding myself dinner, occassionally I'll treat myself to some take-out or a meal out, but more often than not I'll still cook myself a nice, balanced (and usually vegetarian) dinner at home. This dish, loosely based on the traditional Irish Potatoes Colcannon, came together when I was using up all the odds and ends of produce I had before my first CSA pick-up, but I was so happy with it that I've already made it again since. Crispy, salty roasted potatoes and kale become absolutely decadent when swirled in a pool of delicious egg yolk from a poached or over-easy egg. Equally appropriate for breakfast or dinner, this dish will comfort you through the cold fall and winter days to come. Want to make it even more savory? Cook up some bacon, toss the kale and potatoes in the bacon fat before roasting, and crumble bacon bits over the top-almost nobody can resist the siren song of bacon. Like it a little spicy? A little dash of Sriracha is the perfect finishing touch.

Roasted Potatoes Colcannon with Eggs
serves 2

1 bunch kale, stems and ribs removed, leaves chopped
8 ounces potatoes, cut into approximately 1/2-inch dice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and prepare two baking sheets with cooking spray. Toss kale with 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl, then spread evenly on one of the prepared baking sheets. Repeat the process with the potatoes.

2. Place potatoes in the oven on rack in bottom third. After approximately 5 minutes, place the kale in the oven. Roast potatoes and kale, stirring periodically, until kale and potatoes are browned and crispy, about 20 minutes total.

3. Meanwhile, prepare eggs any way you like them (I recommend poached or over-easy). Divide kale between two plates, top each with half of the potatoes, and two of the eggs and serve hot.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pumpkin Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

In the summer, much more of my culinary efforts are focused on savory dishes than baking. Starting up the oven is less than appealing in ninety degree heat and there is so much beautiful fresh local fruit available that is delightful on its own or on top of (or in) homemade ice cream. But now that the temperatures have gotten cooler, I'm ready to throw myself back into baking.

I made these for my morning snack at work, so these cookies are not as rich as ones I'd make for dessert, but packed full of dried fruit and whole grains that give me that much-needed mid-morning energy boost. I often have a granola bar for my midmorning snack, but I feel much more satisfied eating something I made myself than just picked up at the store. I always buy granola bars without lots of whole grains, fruits, and nuts and no high fructose corn syrup or preservatives, but even most of the natural brands have more sugar than I really prefer. These are flavorful, but not overly sweet, so they hit that happy spot of treat and healthy snack and give me something to look forward to each day at work (my stomach often loudly growls in anticipation). I used raisins in these cookies because I didn't have enough dried cranberries, but I think either makes a delightful pairing with pumpkin. Next time I make these I'll probably cut back on the dried fruit and add either walnuts or pecans, but for a more indulgent cookie, some good dark chocolate would be most welcome in the delightful little bites. By the same token, you could also replace the pumpkin purée with butternut or acorn squash puree or sweet potato puree for something a little more off the beaten path. Like so many recipes I love, this recipe allows to be as creative as you'd like to be, so go forth and bake up some tasty fall treats!

Pumpkin Raisin Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Whole Foods
makes about 3 dozen cookies

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons), softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin purée
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups raisins
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together oats, flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add pumpkin, eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Stir in flour mixture until just combined, and then fold in raisins.

3. Drop cookies by heaping tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets and gently press with fingers to flatten into discs (note that cookies will not spread while baking). Bake 20 to 24 minutes or until lightly browned. If baking two sheets at a time, rotate sheets half way through baking. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Whiskey Sour

Whiskey is definitely a spirit I've come to appreciate relatively recently in my history of consuming alcohol and the first way I ever consumed it was in a whiskey sour, on a friend's recommendation. Now I'd never touch anything with commercial sweet-and-sour mix (it's just way too saccharin for my taste), but I still enjoy the combination of sweet and sour flavors with all different types of whiskeys. My new passion for craft cocktails (and craving for a whiskey-based cocktail one night) led me to look up this recipe, which I was delighted to discover was as simple as I'd hoped it would be. Like with so many other things, a few simple ingredients can become way more than the sum of their parts, provided the ingredients are high-quality and fresh. Some things are classic and ever-popular for a reason, and this cocktail falls squarely into that category. It's sweet, it's sour, and blends beautifully with the flavor profile of a wide variety of whiskeys, though it's probably most commonly made with bourbon. If you've just had whiskey sours made with rail whiskey and commercial sweet-and-sour mix, you'll be amazed at how delicious this drink can be when you take the time to make it yourself from scratch with good ingredients. Slainte Mhath!

Whiskey Sour
adapted just slightly from Food and Wine
serves 1

2 ounces bourbon (or other whiskey)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice 
1/2 ounce simple syrup 
1 Maraschino cherry skewered with 1/2 orange wheel or lemon slice, for garnish 

1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the bourbon, lemon juice and simple syrup and shake well. Strain into an ice-filed rocks glass and garnish with cherry and orange wheel.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roasted Parmesan Brussels Sprouts

I didn't discover the deliciousness of Brussels sprouts until last year, when I received them in my CSA box. My dad has less that fond memories of Brussels sprouts from his childhood, growing up the era of boiling vegetables into mush, and my mom is not a fan so they never subjected me to them during my childhood (and were probably just happy that broccoli was one of my favorite foods). Add the fact that Brussels sprouts have a notoriously bad reputation, I was a bit hesitant to try them when they first found their way into my CSA box, but I am extremely adverturous eater and will try nearly anything at least once. The first recipe I tried, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange Butter Sauce from Susie Middleton's Fast, Fresh and Green, made me realize that I absolutely adore these delicious little cruciferous vegetables. That recipe was so delicious that I served it at Thanksgiving dinner and made my dad realize that Brussels sprouts could be delicious (and my mom realize they could be tolerable). After an impulse purchase of a large bag of Brussels sprouts at the farmer's market a few weeks ago, I created this super-simple recipe when I wanted to perk up my sprouts just a bit from a simple roasting in olive oil, salt, and pepper (although that is delicious as well). Just the addition of a bit of salt, savory Parmesan cheese after roasting makes this dish feel special and decadent, provided you're using good, freshly grated Parmesan cheese (like SarVecchio or Hook's). Let these recipes inspire you to forget all your pre-conceived notions and discover (or rediscover) Brussels sprouts; you may just discover a new favorite side dish.

Roasted Parmesan Brussels Sprouts
serves 2 to 4

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large bowl toss the brussels sprouts with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread Brussels sprouts in an even layer on a prepared baking sheet.

2. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, until the brussels sprouts are tender and browned in spots; rotating the pans and stirring the brussels sprouts halfway through roasting. Remove from the oven, transfer to a bowl, toss with the Parmesan cheese and serve hot.