Monday, September 29, 2008


In my line of work, Thanksgiving plans have to be made months in advance. By August and September, you're constantly bombarded with images of turkeys and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies and, most importantly, stuffing. Stuffing, the most essential part of any Thanksgiving meal. In all honesty, I can pass on just about anything else as long as I have a big pile of stuffing. So after a week of staring at various delicious-looking stuffing recipes, I broke down. It was Thanksgiving in September, bird optional.

This recipe uses both cornbread and regular bread, striking a nice balance between sweetness and bready texture. The obscene amount of bread also makes this stuffing exceptionally filling.

Another key element is tart apples, preferably granny smith. A fantastic balance to the peppery sausage and the sweet cornbread, the apples are little bursts of surprise.

Finally, there is the abundance of fresh herbs - parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram. Plus, the inner leaves of the celery stalk, with their concentrated celery flavor, are the essence of Thanksgiving aromas. File this one where you can get to it easily, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Recipe after the jump:


8 Tbsp. (1 stick) sweet unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
2 ribs celery diced
2 tart apples (Jonathan, Winesap or Granny Smith), cored & chunked, with or without peel
1 pound lightly seasoned bulk sausage (breakfast sausage with sage is best)
4 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread (preferably homemade)
4 cups coarsely crumbled or cubed white bread (French or homemade preferred)
2 tbsp inner celery leaves, diced
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh sage, diced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, diced
1 tbsp fresh or dried marjoram, diced
1 tsp ground nutmeg
salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 1/2 cups shelled pecan halves (optional)
1 cup chicken or turkey stock

Cube or crumble all of the bread and add to a large mixing bowl.

Melt half of the butter in a skillet. Saute onions and celery over low heat until translucent. Transfer to the mixing bowl.

Melt remaining butter in the same skillet. Add apple chunks and cook over high heat until lightly colored but not mushy. Transfer apples and butter to the mixing bowl.

Crumble the sausage into the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, until lightly browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the mixing bowl and reserve the rendered fat.

Add remaining ingredients to the ingredients in the mixing bowl and combine gently. Cool completely before stuffing the bird; refrigerate if not used promptly.

If you do not wish actually to stuff the bird, spoon it into a large casserole. Cover casserole with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 325 degrees, basting occasionally with cooking juices from the bird or with the reserved sausage fat or additional chicken stock if necessary. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes to brown the top.

Enough stuffing for a 20-pound turkey, to make 12 to 14 portions. Freezes well.

Continue Reading "stuuuuffffed"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

i am still here

I've just been taking a little break from serious cooking. J-Cat is away this week, I'm still recovering from the sensory assault of Monday night's My Bloody Valentine concert, and the constant blowing of cold air onto the back of my head at work has made me so congested that I can't taste much of anything. So I'm taking the opportunity to eat something healthy, since my taste buds can't really tell the difference anyway. I'm kidding, what I can taste of this dish is pretty darn good, so I'd be more than happy to eat it even on a good day. I found this recipe on yet another fantastic cooking blog that makes this one look like ass - 101 Cookbooks.

Reasons I like this recipe:
1. It has chickpeas. I will eat anything with chickpeas.
2. Lemony.
3. Rice and stuff, perfect together.
4. Best made with ghee, and I'm looking for any excuse to cook with ghee lately.
5. Quick, easy, satisfying.

Recipe after the jump:

From 101 Cookbooks

2 tablespoon ghee or extra-virgin olive oil
fine grain sea salt
1 small onion or a couple shallots, sliced
1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned is fine, if you don't want to cook up a pot of dried chickpeas)
8 ounces extra-firm tofu
1 cup of chopped kale
2 small zucchini, chopped
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

Heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee/olive oil In a large skillet over medium-high heat and stir in a big pinch of salt, the onion, and chickpeas. Saute until the chickpeas are deeply golden and crusty. Stir in the tofu and cook just until the tofu is heated through, just a minute or so. Stir in the kale and cook for one minute more. Remove everything from the skillet onto a large plate and set aside. In the same skillet heat the remaining tablespoon of ghee/olive oil, add the zucchini and saute until it starts to take on a bit of color, two or three minutes. Add the chickpea mixture back to the skillet, and remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice and zest, taste, and season with a bit more salt if needed. Turn out onto a platter and serve family style. I loved it served over brown rice.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

pimping the network: mango chicken with cashews

To be fair, sometimes I really am simply a viewer, and I don't just plug shows because my boss forces me to. Okay, she's never forced me to plug a show, although she does pimp me out on Facebook. But yes, this is another "Ask Aida" recipe, and it's easy and tasty. The only criticism from J-Cat on this dish was that it could use even more mango, but that might be due to the fact that the mango was less sweet than I would have liked. The cashews add great textural variety and the honey adds just a touch of sweetness. Aida's recipe calls for a simple sesame rice on the side, but I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to rice with stir-fries, so I just served with plain jasmine rice and sprinkle the whole dish with sesame seeds. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from Ask Aida on the Food Network

3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup salted cashews
3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium mango, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

In a large bowl or re-sealable plastic bag, mix together 2 tablespoons of the oil, the soy sauce, and the honey until well combined. Add chicken and toss to coat well. Place in refrigerator to marinate at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add nuts. Toast nuts, shaking pan a few times, until nice toasted, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool. (Can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

When chicken is ready, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add chicken with all marinade juices and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is browned on all sides and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Stir in mango and cashews and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over steamed rice.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

basil-walnut pesto

There is really nothing special about this pesto other than the fact that I used walnuts rather than pine nuts. Walnuts are cheaper than pine nuts. I guess that's special. Or maybe it's special because it does actually taste different, subtly, and is worth trying just for a change. It was a nice pretty green.

Then I put a crazy amount of butter and cheese in it. And it became a creamy cheesy magical pesto. Go ahead. Just eat it right off the spoon. Recipe after the jump:

2 cups packed basil leaves (approx. 2 oz)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons softened butter (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

Pulse basil, walnuts, garlic and salt in food processor until it becomes a uniform paste. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil with the processor running. Add Parmesan and butter and blend 5-10 seconds more. If serving with pasta, add a couple tablespoons of pasta water to loosen.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

sunday supper: rosemary focaccia

Due to poor menu planning, last night was an over-the-top carbo load. To accompany the Gemelli with Basil-Walnut Pesto, which I'll post about later, I made this Rosemary Focaccia. That meant that our Sunday Supper had basically no protein to speak of. But it did seem to give me a decent amount of energy for this morning's run. Not really. More like it gave me motivation to keep running because of the guilt.

Another aspect of my poor dinner planning was the fact that I wasn't paying attention to the clock and started the focaccia a little late considering how long it would need to rise. It came out of the oven at 8:30. We were hungry around 7:00, so I made the pesto during the focaccia's second rise and we just went ahead and ate. I like to think of that as a first course...

It was worth the wait. A crunchy edge, a nice, slightly crumby but moist interior, a subtle lovely olive oil flavor.

The top of the loaf dotted with rosemary and sea salt was the finishing touch that added dimension without masking the pure flavor of the bread itself. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from

1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast
4-5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Stir together 1 2/3 cups lukewarm (105 to 115°F) water and yeast in bowl of mixer and let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups flour, 1/4 cup oil, and 1 tablespoon salt and beat with paddle attachment at medium speed until a dough forms. The dough should be slightly sticky, but if it is extremely sticky, slowly add up to an additional 1 cup of flour. Replace paddle with dough hook and knead dough at high speed until soft, smooth, and sticky, 3 to 4 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour. Knead dough 1 minute (it will still be slightly sticky), then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and turn dough to coat with oil. Let rise, covered with plastic wrap, at warm room temperature, until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Press dough evenly into a generously oiled 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan. Let dough rise, covered completely with a kitchen towel, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Stir together rosemary and remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Make shallow indentations all over dough with your fingertips, then brush with rosemary oil, letting it pool in indentations. Sprinkle sea salt evenly over focaccia and bake in middle of oven until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Immediately invert a rack over pan and flip focaccia onto rack, then turn right side up. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008


The newest member of our musical instrument family:

Continue Reading "introducing..."

Friday, September 05, 2008

bangers and mash, take 2

Technically this post is cheating because I've posted this recipe before. But I was happier with this go-round for two reasons. 1: I had real English bangers from Myers of Keswick, and 2: I didn't try to get all fancy and cause a giant mess. Simple, straightforward, freakishly yummy.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

simply cookies

Could there be a cookie that better captures the essence of my cookie philosophy than the classic peanut butter cookie? Nuts, simple ingredients, no rolling and cutting. I don't even need a food processor or stand mixer for this one.

It only really uses one bowl, too, which is obviously a huge plus for my non-dishwasher-having ass. A handmixer is helpful.

Other than that, you need a fork. Line the baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper and you don't even need to wash them.

It's kind of sad that I judge a cookie recipe's worth on how easy it is to clean up afterwards. The lazy baker, indeed.

But actually, these cookies are all that a cookie should be. Chewy, moist, peanuty, classic. Recipe after the jump:

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup white sugar (if using natural unsweetened peanut butter, increase to 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream together the peanut butter, butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until well blended. Beat in the egg, milk, and vanilla one at a time. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls. Place cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Press each ball once with fork tines. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are lightly browned.

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