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Dec 21, 2014
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Guide to the Holidays: Boozy Ginger Balls

Sunday, December 21st, 2014



The hostess has received more than enough bottles of wine and plates of cookies, and she’d likely throw another mixed nut assortment at the wall. But you can’t come to the party empty-handed, so deck the halls with boozy balls. These citrus and ginger treats come together in a flash and, as a bonus, the leftover ginger liqueur will have you making cocktails for the rest of the season.


Boozy Ginger Balls
Makes 3 dozen

1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. orange zest
2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
1 cup ground toasted hazelnuts
¾ cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup ginger liqueur
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

• Place the granulated sugar and orange zest in a small, lidded container and shake well. Pour the orange sugar onto a paper plate or pie pan. Set aside.
• In a large bowl using an electric mixer, mix the crushed vanilla wafers, hazelnuts and powdered sugar until combined. Add the ginger liqueur, corn syrup, orange juice and vanilla, and mix until a dough forms.
• Shape the dough into 1- to 1½-inch balls and roll in the sugar. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate. Balls will keep, refrigerated, up to 3 weeks, or frozen up to 2 months.


-photo by Elizabeth Maxson

Just Five: Pork Medallions with Pears

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014



Garam masala  tastes like winter to me. This heady spice blend includes cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, cumin and brings immediate, comforting warmth to a dish. Here, I spiced pork tenderloin medallions with this aromatic blend, then turned my attention to the accompanying sauce. While pork and apples are a long-standing culinary marriage (What ‘70s kid doesn’t remember Peter Brady’s Bogart-inflected “Pork chops… and applesauce!”),  pears are delicious seasonal alternative – especially when paired with marsala.

Pork Medallions with Pears
4 servings

1 1.75- to 2-lbs. pork tenderloin
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. garam masala
2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
2 pears, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup marsala wine

• Slice the pork tenderloin into 8 even medallions and season generously with salt, pepper and garam masala.
• Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the medallions 2 minutes, then flip and sear 2 minutes more. Remove and set aside.
• Add the shallots to the skillet and saute 2 to 3 minutes, then add the pears and saute another 2 minutes. Return the pork to the skillet, along with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Add the marsala wine and cover, reducing the heat to medium-low, and simmer 3 minutes. Flip and simmer, covered, another 2 minutes. Divide evenly among 4 plates and serve.

Just Five: Tortilla-Crusted Fish Nuggets

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014



My pescetarian daughter just dove into swim season at school. Before she left for her first practice, she had a very specific request: “I’m going to need protein. Can you please make fish tonight with some kind of yummy sauce?” Challenge accepted!

I immediately decided to make classic panko-crusted white fish with a mayo-and-something or sour cream-and-something sauce I’d figure out later. But when the time came to start assembling dinner, I found my pantry severely lacking in panko. Staring out at a cold, dark night packed with rush-hour traffic, there was no way I was venturing to the grocery store. It was time to get creative.

My eyes fell upon a bag of tortilla chips – salty, crushable tortilla chips. Brilliant! A little lime and chili powder, and dinner just fell into place. The dish was ready as soon as my chlorine-perfumed daughter entered the house. Since I barely managed to snap a photo of these nuggets before my swimmer devoured them, it’s safe to say I’ll be making them again soon.


Tortilla-Crusted Fish Nuggets with Spicy Dipping Sauce
3 to 4 servings

½ cup sour cream
3 Tbsp. lime juice, divided
1½ tsp. chili powder, divided
2 cups ground tortilla chips (about 5 cups whole chips)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste
1 lb. cod, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
Canola oil for frying

• To make the dipping sauce, mix together the sour cream, 1 tablespoon lime juice and ½ teaspoon chili powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
• In a shallow pan or bowl, season the ground tortilla chips with the remaining 1 teaspoon chili powder and pepper. Taste and add salt if needed.
• In a medium bowl, toss the cod with the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice, then roll them in the ground tortilla chips, pressing the crumbs onto the fish to coat on all sides.
• Meanwhile, fill a deep skillet with about 1-inch of canola oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot enough to fry (test by dropping a pinch of ground tortilla chips into the oil; if it bubbles, the oil is ready), carefully fry about 6 nuggets at a time, cooking on all sides until browned, about 1 minute per side. Use a slotted spoon to remove them to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the remaining nuggets. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.


Make This: White Turkey Chili

Friday, November 28th, 2014



The guests are gone, the fine china is stowed away, and there’s a pile of leftover turkey in a Tupperware container. Don’t call it a day just yet! Break out the slow cooker to make a hearty White Turkey Chili for a Black Friday feast while you sleep off that Thanksgiving food coma. In a slow cooker, combine 2 to 3 cups chopped turkey, 3 cups cooked cannellini or Great Northern beans, 1 cup chopped onion, 1 cup frozen corn, 1 4.5-ounce can drained chopped green chiles, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon adobo sauce, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons chili powder and 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Add 4 cups chicken broth and stir. Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. Stir in 6 ounces sour cream, adjust seasonings and serve with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped avocado, chopped cilantro and lime wedges.


-photo by Greg Rannells

Just Five: Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014



Although pho ga is my go-to Asian dish in colder weather, I recently tried the ramen at Hiro Asian Kitchen, which is all about the porky goodness. Slices of pork belly float in a clear pork broth with bok choy and bits of the most delicious ground pork I’ve ever had. The excitement sent me home with inspiration.

It’s difficult to replicate Asian dishes with just five ingredients, but Chinese five-spice is a nice cheat. Made up of star anise, cinnamon, fennel, cloves and Szechwan pepper, it’s a powerhouse that’s heavy on the aromatics and offers a little bit of heat, too.

This simple lettuce wrap is a light and satisfying lunch or dinner, and it can be made with any ground protein: pork, beef, turkey or tofu. Try adding shredded carrots, cilantro, hot sauce or sesame oil for additional flavor and texture if you like. Cook up a little coconut rice to serve with it, and you’ll have dinner in 10 minutes or less.


Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps
2 to 3 servings

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. ground pork
1 Tbsp. Chinese five-spice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
6 leaves Boston or butter lettuce
¼ cup chopped green onion

• Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground pork and break up with a wooden spoon and cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Season with the Chinese five spice and soy sauce and toss until the five spice is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
• Spoon about 1/3 cup of the pork into each lettuce leaf and top with chopped green onion. Serve immediately.




Just Five: Strip Steak with Anchovy Butter

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014



Sometimes life is busy. Sometimes you look at your spouse and think, “When was the last time one of us finished a sentence without an interruption?” And sometimes it seems the only thing that will fix your troubles is a good old-fashioned steak dinner, but who can afford to go out and drop $100 – plus the babysitter, parking and a bottle of wine?

Luckily, a fabulous steak dinner doesn’t have to require a night out. Few things are more indulgent – or easier – than a steak slathered with a compound butter. The anchovy and garlic flavors are similar to those in bagna cauda, and the leftover butter is excellent served with salmon, potatoes, Brussels sprouts or green beans.


Strip Steak with Anchovy Butter
2 servings

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbsp. anchovy paste or 8 anchovies, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 strip steaks
1 Tbsp. canola oil

• Using a hand mixer, combine the butter, anchovy paste, garlic, lemon zest, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl, scraping the sides as needed. Place the butter into the middle of a 12-by-12-inch piece of plastic wrap, molding it into a cylinder. Wrap the butter log tightly and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
• Generously season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper. Add the canola oil to a cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the steaks to the skillet and sear, undisturbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, or to desired doneness. Place the steaks on a plate, cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes.
• To serve, unwrap the compound better and slice off 2 ½-inch thick discs. Plate each steak and top each with a piece of butter. The remaining butter will keep, frozen, up to 6 months.

Just Five: Halloween Pasta

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014



Squid ink pasta looks more dramatic than it tastes. Its slight brininess is stronger in fresh pasta than in dried, and it’s intensified even more in this dish thanks to anchovy paste, but mostly it tastes of garlic and sweet cooked squash. Delicata squash is perfect for this dish thanks to its thin, edible skin (no peeling required!) and quick cooking time.

This pasta is the perfect meal for your ghouls and goblins before they head out for a night of trick-or-treating. Noodles black as night are studded with orange crescent moons and plenty of garlic to keep the vampires at bay. Of course, it’s also adult enough to be the entree at a themed dinner party served with goblets of blood red wine. Drape a black lace cloth over the table and string some fake cobwebs around a candelabra for a festive, fun Halloween night.


Halloween Pasta
4 servings

1 delicata squash
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for tossing
Kosher salt to taste
8 oz. squid ink pasta*
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. anchovy paste
¼ cup shaved Parmesan or pecorino cheese

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Trim the ends off the delicata squash, slice it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Slice into ½-inch crescents. Toss the squash with olive oil to coat and salt to taste, and place them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water and drain the noodles.
• In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and stir until fragrant, then add the roasted squash and saute 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta and reserved pasta water and toss gently to coat, about 1 minute. Top with the cheese and serve.

*Squid ink pasta can be found at Parker’s Table.


Extra Sauce: Rex Hale’s Yellow Curry Paste and Roti

Monday, October 6th, 2014



Local chefs showed us how to add extra crunch to our favorite dishes this month with crispy grains like quinoa, amaranth, kamut and more. The Restaurant at The Cheshire‘s chef Rex Hale shared his recipe for Squash Curry with Crispy Quinoa in print, and if you really want to go the extra mile, try your hand at Hale’s own curry paste and roti, too.

Yellow Curry Paste
Courtesy of The Restaurant at The Cheshire’s Rex Hale
Makes 2 cups

4 Tbsp. fresh turmeric root*, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large onion, peeled, trimmed and quartered
3 Tbsp. chopped ginger root
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh coriander root or cilantro stems
3 Tbsp. chopped garlic
3 Tbsp. sliced lemongrass
2 to 3 Tbsp. fresh Scotch bonnet chiles, chopped and seeded (or habanero, bird’s eye or serrano peppers)
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
3 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. course ground black peppercorns
2 tsp. sea salt
½ cup vegetable oil

• Add chopped turmeric root, onion, ginger, coriander roots, garlic and lemon grass to a blender. Blend to a rough, dry consistency.
• Add the chiles and lime juice to the blender and puree. Add in coriander, cumin, peppercorns and salt and blend again.
• Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over low heat. Fry the paste, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until fragrant. Let cool. Curry paste will keep, refrigerated, up to 1 month.

*Fresh tumeric root is available at most international grocery stores.

Courtesy of The Restaurant at The Cheshire’s Rex Hale
8 rotis

8 oz. whole-wheat flour
8 oz. quinoa flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
5 oz. cold butter, diced
4 oz. cold water
About ½ cup olive oil, divided

• In a large bowl, sift together the whole-wheat flour, quinoa flour, baking powder and salt. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water and mix together with your hands to form a ball. Knead the dough on a floured surface 2 or 3 minutes, then place it in a bowl, cover with a towel and let it rest 30 minutes.
• Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead again for 2 to 3 minutes. Divide the dough in 8 equal portions and roll into balls. Flour the work surface and a rolling pin and roll out a ball into a disc as thin as a tortilla. Stack the rotis, flouring well between each so they do not stick together.
• In a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil and griddle the rotis 1 to 2 minutes, until the underside is slightly brown. Flip, brushing the pan with oil between each side, and cook another 1 to 2 minutes, until the surface bubbles up and browns slightly. Repeat with the remaining roti discs. Cover the cooked rotis with a towel while cooking the next one. Serve immediately. Rotis will keep, refrigerated, for up to 24 hours.


-photo by Carmen Troesser

Just Five: Potato Soup

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014



Soup: it’s universal, comforting, tasty, satisfying and above all, it’s easy as … well, soup. Everyone should have a simple recipe like this one in his or her arsenal. After all, a basic soup is little more than boiling water, chopping up a few veggies and letting it simmer away until it’s time to eat.

This potato serves as a base recipe for any number of variations. Consider adding carrots or leeks with your celery and onion. Use vegetable or chicken stock instead of water; change up the spices. Then, let your guests gild the lily with grated cheddar cheese, chives and crisp bacon.
Potato Soup
6 cups

4 Tbsp. butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
4 russet potatoes, roughly peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
4 cups water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and celery until the onions are translucent. Stir in the thyme and potatoes.
• Add 4 cups water, enough to just cover the potatoes, and the evaporated milk. Bring to a boil over high heat, them immediately lower the heat to medium. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are soft. Remove from heat.
• Use an immersion blender to purée the potatoes to the desired consistency, or use a blender and work in batches. Season to taste with salt and pepper.



Just Five: Pimento Cheese Crackers

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014



Here are some things I know to be true: The folks at Southern Living magazine like their cheese and crackers, particularly when combined into things like cheese straws. Also true is that I can eat an entire box of cheese straws during the drive home from the grocery store.

To feed my craving (and to avoid getting crumbs all over my car), I adapted that Southern Living recipe to make crackers instead of straws with a bit more oomph in the spice blend. These little fellas are incredibly easy to assemble, and they taste a lot like a certain small orange cracker one might find in a red box. To make true crackers, be sure to roll the dough very thin; if not, the crackers stay a little soft, closer to a thin biscuit. In my home, these “Snacky Crackers” never last more than a day.
Pimento Cheese Crackers
Adapted from a Southern Living recipe
Makes about 5 dozen

1½ cup flour
1½ tsp. ground mustard
½ tsp. chili powder
1 4-oz. jar diced pimentos, drained
2½ cups (10 oz.) finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ lb. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 tsp. kosher salt
A few tablespoons water

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, ground mustard and chili powder. Set aside.
• Pat the drained pimentos dry with paper towels, and mince half, leaving the other half coarsely diced. Toss the pimentos in the flour mixture until lightly coated. Set aside.
• Use an electric or stand mixer to beat together the cheese, butter and salt on medium speed until combined. Slowly add the flour-pimento mixture and continue to beat on medium speed, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just comes together, but does not become sticky.
• Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and roll it out as thin as possible, about 1/8-inch thick. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to score the crackers into 2-by-2-inch squares and place them on parchment-lined baking sheet with a little space between each. Pierce each cracker with a fork.
• Bake 16 to 19 minutes, or until just brown around the edges. Let cool on a rack. Crackers will keep in an airtight container up to 1 week.

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