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Stove-top Roasted Brussels Sprouts

We’ve been deep into apple and squash season for some time now, with nary a word from Bring It. If you are in search of some seasonal faves, there are plenty in the archives. I’ve been making my fair share of squash on toast, sugar and spice squash soup, all kinds of riffs on roasted squash and kale salad (often sans kale), and pretty much any way to mainline squash. Same with all things apple, though it is hard to stray far from apple crisp (using this topping) and its more intimidating sister, apple pie. Also psssst: make these apple cheddar scones on the weekend and you’re a hero, guaranteed.

With Thanksgiving breathing down our necks, I want to focus on Brussels sprouts, which for many of us place second only to lima beans as the most maligned veggie of our youths. They were recently featured in depth on cookthevineyard. The exposé discussed the merits of respective preparations—halved, quartered and sliced—and how to cook each, along with the one hard and fast rule of Brussels sprouts cookery, which is basically this: Never, ever boil them. This is gospel people.

Cookthevineyard has some excellent suggestions, but my new favorite way to cook them —more method than recipe— comes from Joy the Baker. My visits to her site are more voyeuristic than anything, because I’m just not a baker at heart. Other than Easiest French Bread Ever, which I bake like it is my job, I leave the baking glory to others. But her stovetop “roasting” take on Brussels sprouts is sheer brilliance. I can see it working on a cast iron pan on the grill too, just like these peppers and onions agradolce (fancy term for vinegar and syrup) that became this summer’s grilling addiction.

So, this is a quickie, but it is a method that I hope will come in handy this fall, because folks, it’s time to brush off your A Game in the kitchen.

Stove-top “Roasted” Brussels Sprouts

Taken completely, cleverness included, from Joythebaker

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • juice of half a lemon or splash of red wine vinegar
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • grated parmesan cheese

Method:

Trim the ends of the sprouts and cut them in half.  The cut side will create more space for that glorious browning and it’s always nice to see how Mother Nature made a whole ass cabbage to tiny and cute. Admire all the inner layers because vegetables are actually so cool.  All the little outside leaves that fluff off once the end is trimmed? Save those we’ll cook those, too.

Grab a skillet – a pretty big one that has a lid that fits cozy.  Nonstick isn’t important and I haven’t tried this recipe in cast iron though I suspect it works just fine.  Pour oil into the cold pan.  It will feel like a lot of oil and you might be tempted to use less oil but don’t.  Trust me on this one, ok?  Add the halved Brussels sprouts to the pan with oil, cut side down in a single layer.  Sprinkle the little leafy bits on top.  Put the lid on the pan.

Place the cold pan with oil, Brussels, and the lid over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes.  Don’t lift the lid. Don’t shake the pan – just let it all go. This is where the magic happens.  The Brussels sprouts will create steam as they cook and that lid is helping them steam to tender all while the oil is heating and browning those little babies to golden.  After 5-7 minutes, remove the lid, shake the pan around and allow the Brussels to pan fry uncovered for another 5 minutes.  Test with a fork for doneness.

Remove the pan from the heat and toss in salt, pepper, lemon juice and parsley. Be generous. Be very cheffy about it. Optional extras: a spoonful of dijon mustard and brown sugar are glorious additions to the acid.

Notes: As I said, this is 100% from Joy, but I can vouch for the bennies of Dijon and maple syrup added at the end. I mix them up with the lemon juice and pour in the whole shebang. And, I’ve used cotija or grated cheddar cheese instead of parm with no complaints. As ever, love the one you’re with!

And, if you are a brussels sprouts fan dive into cookthevineyard’s rabbit hole on the topic. I am so trying the sprout potato hash…as soon as I work through some more squash and apples.

 

Mini Maple Creemee Pies

Dedicated readers will know that I already posted a recipe for maple creemeee pie, back in November. Then, it was a way to fill a seasonal void. At the height of summer in New England maple creemee options abound, but…what about our friends in the rest of the country? And around the globe? What are they to do?

And, what about those times when you want “just a taste” of maple creemee goodness and you don’t want to get in your car? Enter mini maple creemee pies, the best idea since, well, maple creemee pie.

Here’s the basic concept. Whip up the same amazing pretzel crust, but press it into lined muffin tins. Ladle in the same creamy filling, then pop the tray in the freezer. A couple hours later you’ll have individual servings you can eat by hand, using the liner as a napkin; alternatively you can be civilized, put it on a plate (even top it with some berries) and eat it with a fork.

The civilized version, ready for berries or just your fork

As discussed at length in the original post, my preferred version relies on the alcohol in maple liqueur for both extra flavor and to keep the filling from freezing up like a brick. To make up for both, the non alcoholic version called for more maple syrup. I got some feedback that the sober version was too sweet. I have since adjusted down the syrup in that version, and upped the cream in both versions. All that said, this is wayyyyy more art than science, so give a taste along the way and follow your heart. 

For non maple fans, or for a citrus option, this technique can easily be used to make mini versions of Nina’s Margarita Pie. Finally, to my Vegan friends. I still have not had a victory here, but this is the latest recipe I am going to try, once I find unsweetened oat milk creamer. If you beat me to it, let me know how it goes.

Now, my friends, as a late summer treat, I give you mini maple creemee pies. I hope you love them!

Maple Creemee Pies of All Sizes

Prep time: 15 mins, plus at least 4 hours freezing time for a big pie, and 2 for the minis.

Makes 1 yummy pie, or up to 20 mini pies

Ingredients

  • 12 cup margarine or butter
  • 14 cup sugar
  • 3 cups pretzels (to equal about 1 14 cups crushed)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup*
  • ¼ cup maple liqueur* (mine was 30% alc/60 proof)
  • 1 ½-2 cups heavy cream**
  • Optional: Maple sugar candies crumbled on as topping***

*For non alcoholic version, omit liqueur, and adjust to use 1/4 cup maple syrup, or to taste,  plus 1/2 tsp vanilla (optional).

** I like the full 2 cups of cream. If you don’t use the liqueur, and boost the maple flavor with more than 1/4 cup syrup, extra cream is the right call. And make sure to whip it like you mean it!

*** These are way optional. Veteran testers say leave it alone as is, but one rogue tester notes that the pro pies at Mac’s Maple (with a far inferior crust BTW) featured these. He was enamored by the flourish.

The production line

Method:

Make Pie Crust:
Melt margarine or butter and combine with sugar and pretzel pieces. Press into buttered 9” pie pan. For the mini versions, line 20 (ish) regular sized muffin tins with cupcake liners. Spoon the crust mixture into the cups until it is all used up, then use an empty liner to press the crust in place firmly. Refrigerate or freeze to cool while you make the filling.

Filling: Combine condensed milk, maple syrup and maple liqueur and whisk until it is well incorporated.

Whip the cream until it is very thick and stiff. I mean it—this is your structure. Fold in the whipped cream as gently as you can until it is fully incorporated. Pour into pie crust or ladle into the mini crusts and freeze for at least four hours, more to be safe. Two hours for the minis should do it.

Bringing it:

If you are celebrating away from home, where you have the time and space for it to freeze, it is easily assembled on site. Just prep the pretzels first and put them in a Ziploc bag. Portion out the booze and syrup, grab a pie plate and fill a bag with the rest of the ingredients— cream, a stick of butter and that can of sweetened condensed milk that expires sometime this decade. Make the pie right away so it has max time to freeze, and you have max time to put your feet up and prepare to be worshipped.

On a side note, I had previously said it was not advisable to travel with this in warm weather. I stand corrected. I sent a pie, in the back seat in a reusable freezer bag, to a friend’s house, with instructions for the courier to immediately put it in the freezer. You can guess what didn’t happen. Flash forward to the following morning…the pie is secretly returned from the back seat to our own freezer, hidden under a big bag of blueberries.  Flash forward two weeks…I unearth the buried pie, have a piece and it’s still delish! That, my friends is a true story of survival.

A 9-inch cake pan, with plastic lid, is the perfect getaway vehicle.

Party Time Smashed Potatoes

Let’s just say, hypothetically….you’re heading into Memorial Day without a real plan for what to bring to the various cookouts; or, that you knew your house was filling up but hadn’t really planned out how to feed everyone; or, you cannot face going into the fancy grocery store looking for obscure ingredients ONE MORE TIME. I’ve got you covered!

Memorial Day weekend is no time for being fussy or experimental. It is about the basics and the classics, things that taste even better when you’re eating them outdoors in flip flops. Enter, the potato. Specifically, the smashed potato.

I’ve seen these many times but finally made them and am now a little but addicted.

Cutting to the chase: You are boiling whole small potatoes (those small ones in the mesh bags are perfect for this), then smashing them into disks/pucks, then salting them, slicking them up with oil and baking them at a high temp until they are crispy. You flip them halfway through because you know that crispy is everything.

Honestly, no need to follow the recipe if you do these things, because this is more method than recipe, more arts ‘n crafts than science. Which is to say, you can do this! And I hate being bossy but I really think you should. You can also make these in stages as you have time (and without taking up fridge space), making them perfect for the weekend.

There are a bazillion recipes for these on the interwebs, but I am running with this one from Cook the Vineyard because they had some pro tips (like using a high smoke point oil vs olive oil) That said, I included my own comments (in italics) that cut down on labor and laundry.

But that’s not all! As a bonus I’ve included the simple limey dipping sauce which is perfect on these and remarkably versatile at snazzing up leftovers, sandwiches, tacos, bowls and veggies, whatever. Any sauce that strikes your fancy will do here, and there’s never any shame in straight up ketchup.

And should you need tried and true ideas for the rest of the feast you can’t go wrong with the OG hits: Funitella, Hero Slaw, Oven fried chicken, Watermelon Tomato Salad, Panzanella…you know.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

Recipe mostly from Cook the Vineyard

Serves 4, or more as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 16 baby red potatoes, consistently sized (the little bagged ones, red or yellow, are perfect)
  • Kosher salt (lots, and other seasonings as you like)
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil or other vegetable oil I don’t think I’ve ever used that much oil. See recipe note.
  • Limey Drizzling Sauce (optional)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 475°F. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put a piece of parchment paper on top. You can also go this with just parchment paper or straight on a baking sheet. Arrange a double-layer of dishtowels on a large cutting board or your kitchen counter. (No need for dishtowels I’ve found. Just mind any wandering taters)
  • Put the potatoes in a Dutch oven or other medium-large pot and cover with at least 1 1/2 inches of water. Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt, cover loosely, bring the water to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Uncover and cook until the potatoes are tender all the way through, but not falling apart, about 18 to 22 minutes. (Check with a paring knife.)
  • Drain and transfer the potatoes to the dishtowels. (I bag the dishtowels, pour out most of the water then use tongs or a slotted spoon to lift the potatoes out of the water onto the parchment. You’re just trying to get the water off and smash them) Arrange the potatoes a few inches apart, and let them cool for a few minutes. Using another folded dishtowel (or piece of parchment or just a big spatula), gently press down on each potato to flatten it into a patty about 1/2 inch thick (or up to 3/4-inch). Let the patties cool for a few minutes more, transfer them to the baking sheet, and let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes longer. (Or, at this point, you can hold the potatoes in the fridge for up to 24 hours and on the counter for hours, covered with plastic or that top piece of parchment. Bring to room temp before roasting.)
  • Season the top of the potatoes with salt and pour the oil over them. Carefully flip the potatoes over and gently rub them in the oil so they are well coated. Season the top side with more salt. Roast for about 15 minutes, carefully slip the potatoes over with a spatula, and continue roasting another 10 to 15 minutes (a total of about 28 to 30 minutes) or until they turn a deep orange brown color and are crisp around the edges.
  • Serve warm (seasoned with more salt if necessary) with Limey Drizzling Sauce (optional) or with salad greens.

All smashed up and ready to party

Bringing It:

These are ideal warm from the oven, but I have yet to meet the person who turns one down at room temp. For extra credit you can bring them on their baking sheet, pop them in the oven for a few minutes and transfer them to a serving platter. If you are besties with the host bring them over pre-smashed and bake them up on site.

Limey Dipping Sauce

Also from Cook the Vineyard\

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • Kosher salt

Method:

Whisk together all the ingredients, including a pinch of salt, until well-mixed. Refrigerate until serving time.

 

Mushroom (It’s Not About the Meatballs) Meatballs

This is my second post ever about meatballs. And like the first one, it really isn’t about meatballs. This time, it doesn’t even involve meat.

This post does include a delicious recipe that I have been meaning to share for a long time, but it’s more about friends and family and remembering and gathering. It is a loving shout-out to my Aunt Judith, who we honored last weekend. Judith was one of the most colorful people on the planet, quite literally. You’d be hard pressed to find any picture of her dressed in earth tones. It was her colorful personality, however, that shone through: the conspiratorial belly laugh that, together with the twinkling eyes, invited you into the underlying mischief of the moment. As my mother’s younger sister, she took it as her duty to show us that it was ok—even preferable—to color outside the lines.  

Judith would have appreciated the happy gathering orchestrated by her daughter, the fabulous  Pamina, resplendent in chartreuse and fire-engine red. The tribe came together, decked out in a full spectrum of colors on a brilliant November day, where the strangely persistent yellow foliage boldly defied the bleakness of stick season; and where Cousin Danielle’s Rolling Stones  tribute cheerfully defied church convention. It was perfect.

In addition to the colors, laughter, music and stories, it also seems fitting to remember Judith with food, of which she was a fan. Some of her favorite dishes were comfort food classics, like Italian fare and meatloaf. She also strove towards healthy eating, though the striving and the reality didn’t always match. These meatless meatballs seem like a fitting compromise between her desires and her aspirations.

They are mushroom-based and, like Judith, can accommodate all guests. As written, they include eggs and a small amount of cheese, but for Vegans making the appropriate substitutions is child’s play. These also involve some planning to accommodate chill time, forming and baking, but once you’ve done the drill they are quite easy. Crank up “That’s Amore” and get into it. They are delicious, which is all that really matters.

The only real downside is that color—Judith’s hallmark—is not well-represented here. Aside from that, these have everything you need for a tasty meal, and with enough sauce you’ve got color too. So, here’s to you Aunt Judith. You got us all together once more, in full color, and we love you to la luna and back.

Lots of taste, not so much color

Chef John’s Meatless Meatballs (of Internet fame)

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 1 lb. fresh white mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 pinch, and 1 tsp. pink salt
  • 1 Tbs. Butter
  • ½ C. finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves, garlic, minced
  • ½ C. quick-cooking oats
  • 1 oz. very finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
  • ½ C. Breadcrumbs
  • ¼ C. Flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped, packed
  • 2 Eggs, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch dried oregano
  • 3 C. Pasta Sauce
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped flat-leaf Italian Parsley
  • 1 Tbs. very finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Method:

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms to the hot oil, sprinkle with salt, and cook and stir until liquid from mushrooms has evaporated. Stir butter into mushrooms, reduce heat to medium, and cook and stir mushrooms until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Stir onion into mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir garlic into mushroom mixture until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl.

Mix oats into mushroom mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently stir 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into the mixture. Add breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1 egg, season with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and oregano. Mix with a fork until crumbly. Stir in the remaining 1 egg. The mixture should hold together when pressed.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. For best flavor and texture, refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Form mixture into small meatballs using a 2-tablespoon scoop. Roll meatballs lightly between your hands until smooth, if desired; arrange meatballs on a prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until meatballs are lightly golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Bring pasta sauce to a boil in a large saucepan; reduce heat to low. Gently stir meatballs into sauce until coated. Simmer meatballs in the sauce until cooked through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with 1 tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and 1 tablespoon parsley.

Cousins Pamina and Beatie, in color

Sisters Judith and Nina, smiling as they did.

 

 

The Resta the Fiesta

Cinco de Mayo is coming at us like a Hump Day freight train. This year, we’ve got masks, we’ve got shots for the most part. We’re ready! Let’s review. We’re all set with triple spicy margs, and salsa verde, and today we’re adding one new non-recipe app to get the party started.

But first, we’re visiting to the archives for some basics:

For the apps, there must be guac. Lots of guac. I know full well you do not need a recipe for it, but in case you want to go a little off the reservation, there’s this crazy one with apples, pecans and tequila. For a more mainstream option try this Mango jicama guacamole or just add some chopped jicama to your guac for a refreshing crunch. Score points for doing (slightly) more than using your can opener with some easy and delish balsamic black beans. They can be an app or go on/into tacos, burritos enchiladas, quesadillas, tostadas, etc.

For the sides? Bust out the Hero Slaw. Full stop. It’s right for any party but especially for a fiesta because it’s fresh, crunchy, spicy, make-aheadable and feeds a crowd. It’s got it all, and neighborhood lore to boot. So, do that. For a more tropical totally refreshing salad Hot Cha Cha Pineapple Avocado Salad is a strong move. There’s got to be a corn course somewhere in there, and for some reason I have no go-to corn salsa recipe. Not to worry! This Mexican street corn inspired corn salad will do quite nicely.

As for the main event, let’s give ourselves the gift of simplicity. That could be: Baked tacos; quesadillas spiced up with Chile crisp, or not; a batch of Chicken taco chili all made easy in the crockpot; summer simmer chicken or some baked salsa verde chicken made with your salsa verde reserves.

Dessert, if you choose to eat it, has got to be Nina’s Margarita Pie. It just does. That said, nobody will complain if you bust out cholliesauce, call it dulce de leche and pour it on anything.

And now, for the non recipe pictured above. These Spicy Shrimp Bites, passed down through a friend chain, are deLISH and so basic. I hope they kick off many fun fiestas to come!

Spicy Shrimp Bites

Ingredients:

Tostitos scoops corn chips
Guacamole of choice (no shame in store-bought for this)
Smallish raw shrimp* (nekkid-no shells or tails)
Touch of oil for cooking
Taco seasoning

Method:

Cook up the shrimp in a skillet with a bit of oil until just done (a few minutes each side). As they are cooking, sprinkle them with taco seasoning on each side, and give them all a little stir together when they’re done.

Fill each chip with a bit of guac and top with a shrimp. Ta-da and Olé!

*Shrimp sizing on the package is a little like jean sizing. Not reliable. Your best bet is to eyeball the shrimp and imagine the Tostito boat it’s going in. I’m thinking 51/60 is a good zone, but if you find your shrimp are too big just cut them in half.

Bringing it:

If your trip is relatively tame, bring these pre-assembled, covered on a rimmed dish. Otherwise, these are easy and quick to put together on site. Just make sure you are kind to your Tostitos so there are enough intact to build your bites.

Triple Spicy Margaritas

No Acepte Imitaciones

We all have those friends who don’t F around, who cut to the chase and know just what you need, when you need it. I am blessed to have a fleet of them. A battalion? Whichever is bigger, and armed with more badassery and love. Most of the time they simply make life fun. When you face challenges, they make life So. Much. Better.

Exhibit A, is German Jules, gold-hearted truth-teller and purveyor of the giant triple spicy margarita. I did promise a review of Bring It Fiesta basics, but, because Monday is the new Friday, we’re jumping ahead to the crown jewel of our Cinco de Mayo prep. It’s the right thing to do, because if you’re going to bring your Fiesta A game, you might need to practice.

This recipe (as seen in the proper volume below) comes straight from the source (above), with guidance from the bottle of Ancho Reyes, a little treat that apparently has been around since 1927. Close to 100 years later I am on it! And because I am a rule follower, I will from here forward obey the label: “No Acepte Imitaciones.”

The spice come from ancho chiles in the liqueur, ginger in the ginger beer and, if you dare, jalapeños in the infused vodka. You can dial down the heat by using regular tequila, and the strength by using more ginger beer. You know you, so adjust accordingly. And…Olé!

Triple Spicy Margaritas

Ingredients:

  • 1 part jalapeño-infused tequila* (or regular)
  • 1 part Ancho Reyes liqueur (non-negotiable)
  • 1 part, or less, fresh (or as good as you’ve got) lime juice
  • Splash, to taste ** agave or maple syrup (Yankees, do the right thing!)
  • Ginger beer (the good, spicy stuff)

Method:

Combine everything but the ginger beer, and shake with ice. Pour over ice and top with ginger beer. Dial the ginger beer up or down to get the desired effect. Pro Tip: Pour a ginormous one in a huge vessel over tons of ice. Take your time—say an afternoon—pouring more ginger beer over the top to refresh and slow your roll.

*Make your own jalapeño infused tequila by slicing up some jalapenos into a mason jar, filling with tequila and letting it sit for a few days. Strain and enjoy. Here’s an actual recipe for it.

** Technically, the recipe on the bottle calls for 1/2 part sweetener, but Jules goes with a splash Do what you will for you or your crowd.

Go big or go bigger

Lemon Blueberry Sunshine Loaf

Some days we need a little sunshine. Heck, some years we need it. This would be one of those days in one of those years. This recipe is one I have been meaning to post since the day, in the depths of winter, a glorious box of Meyer lemons arrived from Cousin D in California. As if the lemons weren’t treat enough, they concealed some vintage lederhosen, which of course EVERYONE needs.

Similarly, everyone needs a bit if sunshine, and this loaf (easily Veganized) serves it up.  It comes straight from Cookie and Kate, and was the answer to many questions, like:

What can I make that uses every part of these luscious lemons?
What can I make that is easy and delish?
What can pass off as a homemade dessert when we have visitors, or a satisfying snack or breakfast when we don’t?
What’s going to hit the above and have some redeeming nutritional qualities?

This is the answer to all that! I hope you like it, and that it brings a little sunshine to your day. After seeing what lemon zest does to sugar you will never let your lemons go unzested again.

Lemon Blueberry Sunshine Loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 2 medium lemons, preferably organic, to be zested and juiced
  • 1 cup sugar (organic cane sugar if you’re fancy)
  • ¾ cup plain whole-milk (full fat) yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 3 extra-large eggs (aquafaba works great too)
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, do not defrost!)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Optional accompaniments: coconut whipped cream or regular whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously butter and flour a 8½ by 4¼ by 2½-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Pour the sugar into a separate medium-sized mixing bowl. Grate all the zest from the lemons. Rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar is yellow and fragrant. Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla to the sugar mixture. Whisk well, until the ingredients are combined.
  4. When the mixture is well blended, gently whisk in the dry ingredients, just until incorporated. Switch to a spatula and fold in the oil, making sure it’s all incorporated. The batter will be shiny. In a separate bowl, toss the blueberries with about one teaspoon flour (this will help prevent them from sinking while the cake bakes.) Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the top is golden and the sides just start to pull away from the sides of the pan. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
  6. Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, warm 2 tablespoons lemon juice and two teaspoons honey just long enough for you to whisk the honey into the juice. You can do this in your smallest saucepan over medium-low heat or in brief bursts in the microwave. Once the honey is mixed in, taste it—it should be pleasantly tart. If it’s too sour, mix in more honey. Using a pastry brush, brush the lemon-honey glaze on top of the warm cake. Repeat until you have no more liquid left.
  7. Run a knife between the cake and the sides of the pan to loosen. Unmold the cake by placing a large plate or cutting board upside down over the loaf pan and carefully turning it over. Turn the cake back onto a flat surface to cool completely. Then slice and serve!

Bringing it:

This is the PERFECT offering to bring anywhere anytime. It’s portable, sturdy and easy to eat at any venue. Bring it on!

Pilgrim Pie: When cranberries get nutty

Here’s an idea. Since this Thanksgiving is going to be necessarily smaller, probably weird and definitely unique, maybe we take a different approach. Maybe we bag the turkey and the hassle of all those sides, cut to the chase and make it all about pie.

I know…ain’t gonna happen. Once everybody gets themselves swabbed for COVID before showing up, they’re going to deserve a proper feast for the effort.

But for some of us, it’s still all about pie. For a new take on it this year, I highly suggest Pilgrim Pie, AKA the cranberry curd tart that has been all over the Internet. It’s kind of like a lemon meringue pie but with cranberries and without the meringue. With the toasted nut crust it definitely becomes it’s own thing.

This version is a hybrid of the one that appeared recently in the New York Times and the one in the Hannaford flyer. It is the best of both recipes. As a bonus, I sifted through the hundreds of comments on the NY Times one (you’re welcome, and…damn those readers have a lot to say!) and assimilated the complaints and suggestions into hacks and options. Because it took me three pies to get a decent photo, I got a lot of practice with all my tweaks.

Bottom line: Make this pie! I know you need pumpkin and apple and pecan and maybe mincemeat for that one person who insists it is edible.  I feel your pain. But I urge you to dig deep. It’s Thanksgiving and we’re all hanging on by a thread. One thing you CAN handle is another pie.

Some notes: The nut crust is what really does it for me. I have tried it as written, with hazelnuts, and also with almonds and a mix of almonds and walnuts. Love the nut you’re with. For a healthier version the pecan coconut crust from knockout vegan pumpkin pie would also be divine, especially if you doubled it and made it super thick like this one.

The filling is strained through a sieve, and you will need a rubber spatula for this. Some rogue commenters didn’t bother straining the filling and said it was just fine that way, so if you’re the rustic type go for it. If you’re going for perfection, do scrape the sides of the pan periodically with that rubber spatula as it cooks, to keep the filling silky smooth .

That’s all. Happy Baking!  

Size matters? Not so much. With pie it’s all good!

Pilgrim Pie

Ingredients

For the nut crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups raw hazelnuts or sliced almonds.
  • 1 cup flour (rice flour to go GF, sprouted wheat flour to be fancy)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter

For the cranberry curd:

  • 12 ounces cranberries (~3 cups)
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 8 chunks

Method

  1. Make the crust: Heat oven to 325 degrees. If using hazelnuts, roast them on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes, until skins darken and crack. Put roasted nuts in a clean towel and rub off skins. Discard skins and let nuts cool. For sliced almonds, 10 minutes of toasting ought to do it.
  2. In a food processor, grind nuts. Add the flour and salt and pulse together. Add the cut up butter and pulse until it hangs together when you squeeze a bit of it.
  3. Press dough evenly into the bottom and around sides of a 10-inch tart pan or 9-inch pie dish; Prick bottom with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes (or several days if desired).
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake chilled tart shell about 15 minutes until lightly brown. Cool.
  5. While the crust bakes and cools, make the cranberry curd: Put cranberries, sugar, water and lemon zest in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, about 10 minutes. Puree the cranberries in a food processor until smooth (careful here—they’re hot), wipe out the pan, then strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve back into the saucepan, pressing on solids with a rubber spatula. Discard solids (or sneak them on toast to bide your time). You can also use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, then strain it into another saucepan.
  6. Combine eggs and egg yolks into a bowl and beat lightly. Slowly whisk 1/3 cup of the warm cranberry liquid into the eggs to temper, then pour eggs into the saucepan and whisk together.
  7. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the sides and bottom with a rubber spatula until mixture has thickened and reaches 170 degrees (8-12 minutes if you, like me, can’t find that dang thermometer)
  8. Remove from heat, whisk in butter one chunk at a time until fully incorporated, then whisk in lemon juice.
  9.  If using immediately, let cool to room temperature-ish. If working ahead, cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap (press wrap against curd) and refrigerate. (Curd may be cooked up to 1 day ahead.)
  10. Pour cooled cranberry curd into the cooled prebaked tart shell and smooth top with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes to set curd. Cool on a rack. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.
  11. Serve topped with whipped cream.

Variations:

Healthy it up a bit with the pecan coconut crust from this Vegan pumpkin pie.

Sub in orange zest and juice for the lemon zest and juice.

Go nutty and switch out the nuts with whatever turns your crank

That’s about all I’m going to mess with here. It’s darned near perfect.

Squash Season with a side of Pumpkin Muffins

Those cute Halloween pumpkins?  Going, going…gone! It’s time to put them to work. It seems we skipped right over apple season. I know that we didn’t really skip over it. Pies and crisps were made, cider was chugged. But apples did not get their due on Bring It this year. Let’s just blame COVID and move on.

Move right along to squash.  The phrase “too many squash” is never uttered in my kitchen (by me at least). Butternut and denser, drier kabocha squash fill the void left by watermelon at summer’s end, finding their way into my cart every time I go to the grocery store.  This year, I hit the jackpot when a friend shared her bounty of homegrown butternut squash and sugar pumpkins (thank you Carole!), so we’re having a full-on Squashtacular.

To celebrate, I’m sharing a round up of my favorite winter squash recipes, with a bonus new pumpkin muffin recipe at the end. They are my faves by far after way too much experimenting. For me, pumpkin baked goods can be a tough sell, as they usually involve way too much sugar, oil and spice to overcompensate for being vegetable based. They’re like the macho player of baked goods.

BUT, put squash in the savory role, and it becomes something else entirely, something comfortable with itself that doesn’t have to try too hard. It adds body and nutrition and enough sweetness to become its own special treat without dressing itself up like dessert.

My go-to squash recipes start with the ever-satisfying Sugar and Spice Squash Soup, featuring the brilliant threesome of red curry paste, coconut milk and candied ginger. For an even simpler, an very similar version try almost instant Halloween Soup.

Almost instant squash soup, with pro toppings for extra credit.

For appetizers, you can’t go wrong when you invite caramelized onions into the mix with some butternut squash on toast. Work through your kale supply with the easily made ahead Roasted Squash, Kale and Cranberry salad.

If you’re willing to get a little weird on pizza (or pasta) night, try Butternut Squash Sauce, or an easy, outstanding creamy pumpkin pasta  (a little crumbled bacon on top shuts the doubters right up).

And finally, my baked goods comment notwithstanding, I’ve fallen back in love with Knockout Vegan Pumpkin Pie. It’s all about the crust, which I made with hazelnuts instead of pecans this time. Soooo good. 

If you still have some pumpkins hanging around, fergawdssakes get them into the oven! …and save a bit to try these healthyish whole grain muffins that are proud to be themselves—just sweet enough, moist but not greasy, and only mess up one bowl in your kitchen. Happy November…the countdown is on!

Proud Pumpkin Muffins

Based on these from Cookie and Kate

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • ⅓ extra-virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil 
  • ½ cup maple syrup or honey (as if…maple all the way baby!)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature (or 6 Tbsp aquafaba)
  • 1 cup pumpkin (or winter squash) purée
  • ¼ cup milk of choice (plant, animal, whatev)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin spice blend (or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon ground allspice or cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat)
  • ⅓ cup old-fashioned oats, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons turbinado (raw) sugar for a sweet crunch

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease or line all 12 cups of your muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the oil and maple syrup or honey together with a whisk. Add the eggs or aquafaba, and beat well. Add the pumpkin purée, milk, pumpkin spice blend, baking soda, vanilla extract and salt.
  3. Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined (a few lumps are ok). If you’d like to add any additional mix-ins, like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit, fold them in now. (a heaping half cup chopped walnuts is outstanding)
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with about a tablespoon of oats, followed by a light sprinkle of raw sugar and/or pumpkin spice blend if you’d like. Bake muffins for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. These muffins are delicate until they cool down. You might need to run a butter knife along the outer edge of the muffins to loosen them from the pan.
  6. These muffins taste even better after they have rested for a couple of hours! They’ll keep at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. They keep well in the freezer in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months (just defrost individual muffins as needed).

 

Late Summer Zucchini Tian

The summer veggies are hanging in there, but we’re definitely bridging into squash and apple season. I’m looking to you, potatoes, to help us across that divide, by adding a little heft to the rest of the zukes and tomatoes.

Behold the tian, which is basically a whole lot of veggies layered over each other in sequence, each layer blessed with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. The whole shebang is then topped with cherry or grape tomatoes and breadcrumbs and then melded together in the oven. It’s pretty brilliant in its simplicity and humble (until I bragged about it) elegance. 

This recipe has the clever touch of being assembled over a low burner so the potato base layers get a little head start cooking. I’m including the whole recipe—as written by Chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune fame—but also giving you the Cliffs Notes, because this is more technique than exact recipe.

You’re melting the butter in the bottom of a big pan, making a base of two layers of sliced potatoes, then covering that with successive concentric layers of onions, zukes, potatoes, onions, zukes and finally all the tomatoes and a sprinkling on breadcrumbs. Each veggie layer  gets its own drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt, and cooks along as you keep slicing away.

You can futz with amounts, but there are some key points to follow, starting with the your slicing. To get an A+ tian your potatoes, onions and zucchinis all need to be sliced thinly, hence the mandoline. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend springing for it. My $12 beauty is admittedly bare bones but it does the job and I still have all my fingers, so there’s that. On that note, do pay attention and use the protective pusher when you get anywhere near the end of your veggies. Those blades are sharp!

Also, the stove-top steaming step is key to cooking the potatoes. I got lazy and made a second  tian by layering everything in my baking dish (some of us only own 1 cast iron pan) then putting it in the oven. It was good, but not great, mostly because the potatoes were not as perfectly cooked. If you go that route, cover your vessel with foil for the first half hour of cooking and leave it in for an extra 15 minutes, uncovered.

I also distilled the comments from the New York Times version of this recipe, which are many. They separate into two camps, both pretty indignant. The “How can you possibly not include garlic and fresh herbs in this?” camp and the “Keep it simple and let the fresh ingredients sing” camp. The latter crowd reminds us that the dish originated from a nonna in Puglia, and Pugliese hate garlic. Who knew? Thankfully, pretty much everybody agrees that blanching the tomatoes is only for teacher’s pets, and quite unnecessary.

Anyway, the bottom line is that both camps like this dish a whole lot, and with a long potato season in our future, it seems like a good time to get comfy making tian.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 12 ounces)
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 zucchini (about 12 ounces), washed and wiped free of any clinging grit
  • 1 pint yellow Sungold cherry tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup coarse bread crumbs

Method

  1. In a pot, boil 2 inches of water for blanching tomatoes (OR NOT). Place an 8- or 9-inch cast-iron skillet on a burner over low heat, and add butter to melt.
  2. Peel the potatoes, and slice on a Japanese mandoline into 1/4-inch-thick disks, then arrange in a single layer circle covering the bottom of the cast-iron skillet with its melted butter, keeping the skillet on the burner and leaving the heat on while you start to build the tian.
  3. Add a second layer of potato slices, and season with salt and pepper, add a drizzle of olive oil and cover with a lid to slightly steam while you slice the yellow onion.
  4. Peel the onion, then slice into even ¼-inch or thinner rounds. The Japanese mandoline is sometimes too narrow to use for this, so you may have to use a sharp knife and do it manually.
  5. Layer abundantly half the onion rings evenly around the pan on top of the steamed potatoes, season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, and recover the pan with a lid while you slice the zucchini.
  6. Slice the zucchini into ¼-inch-thick rounds, and layer half of them in concentric, just-overlapping shingled circles over the onions to create a neat layer. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil and recover with the lid while you blanch the tomatoes.
  7. (FOR OVERACHIEVERS ONLY) Season the now-boiling water with a few good pinches of salt, and drop the tomatoes into the boiling water. As soon as their skins split — about 30 seconds — retrieve the tomatoes and run under cold water to quickly cool enough to handle; set aside.
  8. Build another ring of potato around the tian on top of the now-steaming zucchini, this time just a single layer. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper and recover with the lid to steam a bit while you slip the skins off the tomatoes (IF YOU MUST).
  9. Layer the other half of the onions as before, season and drizzle and replace the lid as before, while you split the tomatoes in half horizontally with a small sharp knife.
  10. Add final layer of zucchini to the tian, and season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Cover, and let steam while you heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  11. Place the tomatoes around the top of the tian evenly, and sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top evenly. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper and place in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.* (If your skillet threatens to bubble over, slip a sheet pan underneath to prevent any burned wreckage in the bottom of your oven.)
  12. With a spoon, baste, and drizzle the pan juices that accumulate in the tian over the top when you remove it from the oven at the end. Allow the tian to cool, settle and kind of meld for an hour before eating.

*I’m pretty sure this is meant to go in uncovered though none of the bazillion comments actually answered this. Mine goes in uncovered, and it’s darned good.