rice and peas

Side dishes aren’t my strong suit. I often find myself googling dorky things like “what to serve with Jamaican jerk chicken?” Rice and peas kept coming up, and I kept bypassing it. Who wants green peas mixed with plain white rice?

It turns out, of course, that rice and peas is nothing of the sort. Peas, in the Jamaican way, are beans. I was fortunate enough to find pigeon peas at my store (another reason to stop complaining about my grocery store), but red beans work too.

Rice and peas, then, is rice and beans cooked in coconut milk with thyme, green onions, and a spicy chile. The chile isn’t minced and eaten; it’s left whole and removed after cooking, so it adds just a hint of heat, which really does make this the perfect side dish for spicy jerk chicken. Thanks, Google!

Two years ago: Croque Madame

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Rice and Peas

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup long-grained white rice
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup coconut milk
1 cup water
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 (15-ounce) can pigeon peas (or red beans), drained and rinsed
1 habanero chile, whole
2 green onions, chopped, plus extra for garnish

1. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and rice; cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is translucent at the edges and the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir once, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Once the mixture simmers, reduce the heat to the lowest heat.

2. Cook for 15 minutes, then, without removing the lid or moving the pot, turn off the heat and let the rice sit for another 15 minutes. Remove the chile pepper, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve, topping with additional green onions.

grilled artichokes

When it comes to groceries, I’m not particularly thrifty. I don’t know if my old grocery store (the much-missed Wegman’s) even had sales, and if they did, it wasn’t on anything I was buying. I see more sales at my new grocery store; I don’t plan my shopping around them, but I can’t always resist them either.

Fresh artichokes for 69 cents each! That is a deal that is not to be passed up, especially when I was keeping an eye out for some fancy sides to compliment my celebration lamb.

When Dave and I grill, we like to cook the whole meal on the grill, so I definitely wanted to grill the artichokes. Katie’s recipe uses the perfect approach, because the artichokes are steamed in foil packets first, and then unwrapped and seared over a hot flame. The artichokes end up both perfectly tender and decorated with beautiful grill marks.

Artichokes aren’t as time-consuming to prepare as I used to think, but they’re still pretty messy to eat. You remove individual leaves and scrape the meaty edible part off with your teeth, until you get to that delicious heart. Artichokes are good on their own, but they’re even better with a decadent dipping sauce; we used the sauce that was served with the lamb. It made a perfect compliment to perfect artichokes that accompanied a perfect meal.

Two years ago: Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Cannellini Beans

Grilled Artichokes (adapted from Good Things Catered)

Katie added extra lemon to the packets and served the grilled artichokes with cherry tomatoes. It makes for a beautiful presentation, but didn’t compliment the flavors I was serving these with. However, it serves as a great example of how easily this recipe can be adapted to the meal you’re serving.

Serves 4

8 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
4 globe artichokes
salt and pepper
1 lemon, quartered
about 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Prepare a two-level fire, where one side of the grill is hotter than the other.

2. Tear off four 12-inch pieces of aluminum foil. Place two cloves of garlic in the center of each square of foil.

3. Working with one artichoke at a time, cut the stem off and the top 1½ inches of leaves. Cut the sharp tips off of the outside leaves. Halve the artichoke and carve out the fuzzy purple choke. Place the artichoke halves in one square of foil, season with salt and pepper, squeeze one lemon quarter over it, and drizzle with about 1½ teaspoons of oil. Enclose the artichoke in the foil. Repeat with the remaining three artichokes.

4. Place the foil packets on the cooler side of the grill and cook, rotating occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, until the center of the artichokes are tender. Remove the artichokes from the foil and place, cut side down, on the hot side of the grill. Cook for about 2 minutes, until seared.

5. Serve immediately, with a dipping sauce if desired.

slaw tartare

“Here, taste this”, I requested, bringing Dave a cornichon.

He obliged, then made a face. “Euck, it’s a pickle.”

I sighed. Brined food is Dave’s single food hangup, but the cornichons had seemed relatively mild to me. I was hoping he wouldn’t mind them.

I went back into the kitchen to finish the salad, snacking on at least one cornichon for every one I chopped.

Before too long, I tried again, this time with capers. “Too briny”, he insisted.

I was starting to get worried about whether Dave would tolerate this slaw at all. Instead of coleslaw, he might be topping his shrimp burger with arugula and, uh…ketchup? We were out of mayonnaise; it had all gone into the dressing.

I forged on, but halved the capers and reduced the vinegar by even more. After mixing the dressing into the salad, I started tasting for seasoning. Results were inconclusive, so I tasted again. Seems okay, but I should take one more taste. When I realized that all my tasting was simply to keep eating, I decided the seasoning was just fine.

But it was time for the real test. I took a small bowl of the coleslaw to Dave. “Ooh, this is good slaw!” he exclaimed, finishing the bowl off in no time. I let out the breath I’d been holding. He was right. It is good slaw.

(The shrimp burgers were delicious.  They will be my next entry.)

One year ago: Pasta with Cauliflower, Walnuts, and Ricotta Salata
Two years ago: Creamy Buttermilk Coleslaw (okay, that’s kind of wierd)

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Slaw Tartare (adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Rebecca Charles’ and Deborah Di Clementi’s Lobster Rolls and Blueberry Pies)

Not a fan of watery coleslaw, these days I salt all of my cabbage destined for slaw.

Also, the recipe on Deb’s site, which reportedly already has less mayonnaise than the original, still seems to have a crazy amount of it. I’ve reduced it to about a third of what she recommends and thought the slaw was perfectly creamy. I’ve reduced some of the other dressing components accordingly.

½ cabbage (about 1 pound), shredded fine (5-6 cups)
kosher salt
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ cup capers
¼ cup chopped cornichons, plus 1 tablespoon of the juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Toss the shredded cabbage and 1 teaspoon salt in a colander or large mesh strainer set over a medium bowl. Let it stand until cabbage wilts, at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Rinse the cabbage under cold running water. Spin the cabbage in a salad spinner until it’s dry or press, but do not squeeze, to drain it; pat dry with paper towels. Place the wilted cabbage in a large bowl.

2. Mix the onions, sherry vinegar, and sugar together in a small bowl. Let it set for about 15 minutes, then mix in the capers, cornichons, cornichon juice, mustard, mayonnaise, and pepper. Fold the dressing into the cabbage and serve, or refrigerate for several hours for serving.

cauliflower cheese pie with grated potato crust

I have a hard time figuring out where I fit on the healthy eating spectrum. Some things are obvious. I eat a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins: good. I also eat dessert often, although not necessarily a lot of it: still, bad. But everything in between, I’m not so sure.

For example, I love these bran muffins, and I consider them very healthy, as they’re completely whole grain, have a large portion of pure bran, a good dose of dried fruit, and less than 1 teaspoon fat per muffin. But someone commented, “it would be interesting to know the calorie/fat/carb ratios and that way know exactly how healthy these are…” Well, I don’t know; to me, they’re considered healthy. Maybe others disagree based on their versions of what healthy means.

Branny often “brannifies”, as she calls it, recipes by reducing the cheese and other fat, increasing the vegetables, substituting whole grains for refined, using egg whites instead of whole eggs, and choosing less saturated fats than butter. She used many of those tricks when she made this pie, but then when I made it, I…well, I unbrannified it, making the original Moosewood recipe instead of Branny’s healthier adaptation.

I like healthy foods too, and I have no problem decreasing fat and increasing vegetables when it seems reasonable, but by my standards, the original version of this recipe was healthy enough, with just a couple tablespoons of butter in the whole pie and 1 ounce of cheese per main course serving.  Perhaps milk, eggs, and potatoes are all questionable ingredients, but by my standards, they’re all fine in moderation.

But while we may disagree on just how healthy this is, I think we can all agree that it tastes great. And if you don’t like cauliflower, I think it would be at least as good with broccoli. The crust in particular is a revelation – made of grated potatoes and held together by an egg, there is no butter or oil anywhere. How about that for a flaky delicious pie crust? I can’t wait to use it with a quiche. Because even I know that buttery regular pie crust is decadent.

One year ago: Anadama Bread (another Moosewood recipe)
Two years ago: Sichuan Green Beans (still one of my favorites)

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Cauliflower Cheese Pie with Grated Potato Crust (adapted from Moosewood via Branny Boils Over)

Serves 8 as a side dish; 4 as a main course

Looking at online versions of this recipe now, I’m seeing that most call for the shredded potatoes to be salted and drained. I didn’t do this, and in fact, I thought the starch from the potatoes would help form a cohesive crust. I was very happy with how my crust turned out without the draining step.

I recommend using a food processor to shred the potatoes, grate the onion, and shred the cheese.

Crust:
2 cups packed shredded raw potatoes, preferably russet
¼ cup grated onion
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten

Filling:
2 tablespoons butter
½ onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, minced
1 dash thyme
1 medium cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 cup packed grated strong cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
black pepper
paprika

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400ºF. Spray a 9-inch pie pan with nonstick spray.

2. Combine the shredded potatoes, onion, salt, and egg. Pat the potato mixture into an even layer over the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, then give the crust a spritz with nonstick spray. Continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, until browned. Lower the oven temperature to 375ºF.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the onion and cook just until they start to brown at the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the thyme, cauliflower, and salt; cover the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is just tender, about 8 minutes.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, a pinch of salt and another of black pepper, and the milk until evenly colored.

5. Spread half of the cheese on the baked crust. Top with the cauliflower mixture and the rest of the cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the pie. Dust with paprika.

6. Bake the pie until the custard is set and the top is slightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Let it cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

cherry tomato salad

Here are two common pairings that seem impractical to me – bread served with pasta and fries served with burgers. Of course they’re tasty combinations – who doesn’t love more carbs? – but do they make nutritional sense?

Granted, a leafy green salad would be too refined, and roasted or steamed vegetables don’t go with the casual feel of a burger. That’s why I love a non-lettuce based salad to go along with burgers, instead starring something like mushrooms or peppers or tomatoes.

Even though my little desert town has perfect grilling weather nearly year-round, it does not have perfect tomatoes. That’s a nice thing about this salad – you can make it with grape tomatoes, the only decent tomato option at the grocery store for most of the year.

What’s more, the tomato flavor is enhanced by draining the watery juice from the tomatoes and reducing it to use with the dressing. The dressing ends up somewhat sweet, which is nicely balanced by tart red wine vinegar, fresh cucumber (I can’t believe I used to not like cucumber), and salty feta. I’d take this salad over fries any day.

One year ago: Lemon Poppy Seed Waffles
Two years ago: Whole Wheat Pasta with Greens, Beans, Tomatoes, and Garlic Chips

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Greek Cherry Tomato Salad (from Cooks Illustrated)

If in-season cherry tomatoes are unavailable, substitute vine-ripened cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes from the supermarket. Cut grape tomatoes in half along the equator rather than quartering them.

If you don’t have a salad spinner, after the salted tomatoes have stood for 30 minutes, wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and gently shake to remove seeds and excess liquid. Strain the liquid and proceed with the recipe as directed.

The amount of liquid given off by the tomatoes will depend on their ripeness. If you have less than ½ cup of juice after spinning, proceed with the recipe using the entire amount of juice and reduce it to 3 tablespoons as directed.

2 pints ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered (about 4 cups) (see note)
table salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into ½-inch dice
½ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Toss tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon salt, and sugar in a medium bowl; let stand for 30 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes to a salad spinner and spin until the seeds and excess liquid have been removed, 45 to 60 seconds, stirring to redistribute the tomatoes several times during spinning. Return the tomatoes to the bowl and set aside. Strain the tomato liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.

2. Bring ½ cup tomato liquid (discard any extra), the garlic, oregano, shallot, and vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the mixture is reduced to 3 tablespoons, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and cool to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the oil and pepper to taste until combined. Taste and season with up to ⅛ teaspoon table salt.

3. Add the cucumber, olives, feta, dressing, and parsley to the bowl with the tomatoes; toss gently and serve.

twice-baked potatoes

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Trust me, you don’t need a recipe for twice-baked potatoes. You know what makes twice-baked potatoes so good? Fat. The more butter and sour cream you add, the better your potatoes will be. The less you add, the better you’ll feel about eating those potatoes.

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Decide what your goals are – if you want indulgence, you can add all sorts of sour cream, butter, cheese if you want it! If you want to keep it very light, replace the sour cream with buttermilk and reduce the butter to just enough to moisten the potato filling.

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Because I often serve twice-baked potatoes as part of nice meals, my goal tends to be flavor and not nutrition. In this case, I was making them just for myself and Dave, so I tried not to get carried away with the butter and sour cream. If I was serving them for a bigger occasion, I might add a bit more of each.

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Hey, don’t look at me like I’m some sort of fat-adding heathen. My mom pushes a small cube of butter into each potato before its second bake, which melts into an inviting pool of decadence; at least I resisted that!

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One year ago: Candied Orange Peels
Two years ago: Yule Log (Daring Bakers)

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Twice-Baked Potatoes

Serves 4

You can certainly add cheese to these if you like that sort of thing; a couple of ounces (½ cup) of something like cheddar would compliment the other flavors nicely. If you want to make the potatoes lighter, replace all or a portion of the sour cream with buttermilk. If you want to make them even more delicious, increase the sour cream by a couple of tablespoons. The flavor of the filling won’t change significantly after its second bake, so feel free to taste and adjust as you go.

24 ounces (approximately) russet potatoes (4 small or 2 large)
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
2 scallions, finely chopped

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400ºF. Scrub the potatoes and stab each one several times with a fork. Place the potatoes right on the oven rack and bake them until a fork inserted into one meets no resistance, 60-75 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool slightly. Heat the broiler.

2. In a large bowl, mix the butter, sour cream, salt and pepper. Cut the potatoes in half and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving behind a thin layer of potato on the skin. Add the potato flesh to the bowl with the sour cream mixture. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes into the sour cream mixture until it’s combined and there are no large chunks of potato. Fold in the scallions (reserving a few for a garnish, if you’d like).

3. Spoon the filling into the potato shells. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and broil until the tops are crisp and lightly browned. Serve immediately.

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Suggested menu: Steak au Poivre, Brussels Sprouts Braised in Cream, Twice-Baked Potatoes

brussels sprouts braised in cream

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You know what I hate? Those “hide the vegetables in brownies” cookbooks. I admit that I don’t have kids, so maybe I just have no clue and that really is the only way to get them to eat something healthy. But, for now, my theory is that if you prepare vegetables well, there will be no need to hide them.

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By “preparing them well,” I don’t necessarily mean braising them in cream, of course, but if you can afford the caloric expense, these are certainly worth showcasing instead of hiding. Because these are absolutely just so freaking ridiculously good. Is that enough adverbs? Probably not. They’re worth more.

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They’re easy too, and you can clean and trim the sprouts early in the day and put them right in the saucepan with the cream and seasonings. About 15 minutes before dinner, put the pot on a hot burner and give it a quick shake every so often. If you have a few extra minutes to make these even more rich and delicious, remove the cooked sprouts from the pot and continue simmering the cream until it’s luscious and thick, then pour it over the sprouts. It’s just…I don’t even…you just can’t describe something that good.

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Because they’re so easy, so good, and most of the work can be done in advance, these are perfect for guests. And just a piece of advice: your guests will probably enjoy them even more if you don’t mention the whole “braised in cream” part.

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One year ago: Sausage Apple Hash
Two years ago: Risotto with Peas

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Brussels Sprouts Braised in Cream (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 4

1 pound small Brussels sprouts, stem ends trimmed with a knife and discolored leaves removed
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
ground black pepper

1. Bring the sprouts, cream, and salt to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and simmer, shaking the pan once of twice to redistribute the sprouts, until a knife tip inserted into the center of a sprout meets no resistance, 10-12 minutes. Season with nutmeg and pepper to taste.

2. (Optional) Heat the oven to 200ºF. With a slotted spoon, remove the sprouts from the saucepan and transfer them in a heatproof serving dish. Place the sprouts in the oven to keep warm. Meanwhile, simmer the remaining cream in the saucepan over medium-high heat until thick, about 5 minutes. Pour the cream sauce over the sprouts and serve immediately.

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Suggested menu: Steak au Poivre, Brussels Sprouts Braised in Cream, Twice-Baked Potatoes

soft and sexy grits

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The hardest part of blogging for me is the writing. The cooking I do naturally and the photography, even if it frustrates me sometimes, I’m always confident that I can do at least passably. But sitting down and trying to come up with something creative to say is a challenge for me more often than not.

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And that’s why posting every day for a month, although difficult, is a valuable exercise for me. It’s like drilling. Anything I want to master, I have to repeat over and over again. It’s that way for dancing, music, even math. NaBloPoMo is just drilling for bloggers.

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There is an entry or two in the last month that I’m not perfectly happy with, that I would have spent more time on if I hadn’t had to publish something that day. I’m not proud of that entry, but I am proud of the entire month of entries – for finishing it without what I thought was a significant loss of quality. I’m a better blogger for it, and hopefully a better writer.

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Something else I like about blogging every day is that it’s easier to complete little series of posts – the three scone recipes in a row, some New Mexican food, and now this fantastic accompaniment to yesterday’s equally fantastic lamb.

These grits themselves are lovely and rich. But that soft texture and basic flavor means they lend themselves perfectly to soaking up a heady sauce like the lamb’s red wine sauce. The lamb was the star of the show, but it needed these grits singing backup to really shine.

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One year ago: Chocolate Truffles
Two years ago: Crockpot Rice and Beans

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Soft and Sexy Grits (from Cooks Illustrated’s Restaurant Favorites at Home)

Because ground pepper loses its flavor so fast and I don’t use white pepper enough to have a dedicated pepper mill for it, I buy it in a container that has its own built-in grinder.

2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups quick grits
hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
Salt and ground white pepper

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the broth, milk, and cream, and bring just to a boil.

2. Reduce the heat to low and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, slowly add the grits. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the grits are smooth and creamy, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with Tabasco and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, or cover the pan to keep the grits warm and serve within 15 minutes. (You should not need to add any more liquid.)

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mashed potatoes with root vegetables

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Isn’t that turnip the cutest little thing? Like an old crazed bald man, with just a few errant hairs.

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In truth, when I was planning this dish, I had to call a friend to give me some root vegetable knowledge. Which is the one that looks like a white carrot? (A parsnip, it turns out.) Which one should I try first? She recommended turnips, and thus dictated my first ever turnip purchase.

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Of course I took the wussy way out and mixed them with potatoes. Still, I enjoyed the extra dimension of flavor they provided – kind of licoricey and fennel-like. Now I’m looking forward to introducing myself to other root vegetables with this recipe – celery root in particular sounds interesting.

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One year ago: Chanterelle Salad with Speck and Poached Eggs

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Mashed Potatoes and Root Vegetables (from Cooks Illustrated)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces carrots, parsnips, turnips, or celery root; carrots or parsnips cut into ¼-inch-thick half-moons; turnips or celery root cut into ½-inch dice (about 1½ inch cups)
1½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices; rinsed well in 3 to 4 changes of cold water and drained well
⅓ cup low-sodium chicken broth
table salt
¾ cup half-and-half, warmed
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
ground black pepper

1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add root vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter is browned and vegetables are dark brown and caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes. (If after 4 minutes, vegetables have not started to brown, increase heat to medium-high.)

2. Add potatoes, broth, and ¾ teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Cook, covered, over low heat (broth should simmer gently; do not boil), stirring occasionally, until potatoes fall apart easily when poked with a fork and liquid has been absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. (If liquid does not gently simmer after a few minutes, increase heat to medium-low.) Remove pan from heat; remove lid and allow steam to escape for 2 minutes.

3. Gently mash potatoes and root vegetables in saucepan with potato masher (do not mash vigorously). Gently fold in warm half-and-half and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve immediately.

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pumpkin risotto

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Everyone’s goal for their food blog is different. Are you keeping a log of recipes you make for your own sake – to store them somewhere, or to track your progress as a cook? Do you only publish recipes that you recommend others make? Do you have a blog just to cook along with various groups? All are perfectly fine reasons to maintain a food blog.

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Periodically I have to ask myself what my stance is. The question only comes up when I make something that I’d like to share, even though it wasn’t necessarily my favorite dish ever. And I think I’ve decided that, for me, my food blog is somewhere I get to talk about cooking to people who are also interested in food. Basically it’s to offload my food thoughts to people who actually care, saving my friends and family from hearing about cooking nonstop. Not that the topic doesn’t still come up…let’s just say, periodically.

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So, let us discuss, then, this risotto. I’ve made risotto plenty of times before, but usually following the same basic recipe and just adding in whatever extra ingredient I wanted (peppers, peas, greens, etc). This time I decided to follow a different recipe.

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You probably know the basic risotto process – sauté onions and garlic, add the rice, then the wine, then the chicken broth, gradually, and ending with parmesan cheese. This recipe is a bit different. It starts with substantially more butter than I would normally use, in which the onion (supposed to be leeks, but I always forget to buy them) and pumpkin are sautéed. Then the rice is stirred in, like normal, but next is the chicken broth instead of the wine. The broth and wine are added alternately as the rice cooks. Mascarpone is stirred in at the end along with the parmesan.

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It was quite a bit winier than I’m used to risotto tasting, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was also quite a bit cheesier, which I suppose should have been a no-brainer with all the mascarpone, but somehow I was expecting it to add richness without the cheesy flavor.

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Overall, it was…fine. Good? Not necessarily great. I just like my regular risotto better. Some foods are already rich enough that you don’t really need to add twice the butter and a dollop of the creamiest cheese ever. So maybe I don’t strongly recommend this recipe, but I thought it was interesting, and when it comes to choosing recipes to blog about, I guess interesting (to me, and if I’m lucky, to you) is what I’m most concerned with.

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One year ago: Mulled Cider

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Pumpkin Risotto
(copied with no changes from Cucina Italiana April 2001)

3.5 cups chicken broth
1 small pumpkin (about ½ pound)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large leek, white part only, halved lengthwise, rinsed, and diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
¼ cup Mascarpone
⅓ cup (.67 ounce) grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1. Heat broth in a small pan and keep it hot. Cut off the pumpkin stem. With a vegetable peeler, remove the skin. Cut the pumpkin in half, and remove and discard the seeds and stringy flesh. Dice enough of the pumpkin to make 1 cup. (Save any remaining pumpkin for another use; soup is a particularly good possibility.)

2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the pumpkin and leek, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir well to coat it with the butter. Cook, stirring, until the rice begins to crackle, about 5 minutes; do not let the rice brown.

3. Slowly add ½ cup of the broth and stir constantly until the rice absorbs all the liquid; add 2 tablespoons of the wine and continue stirring until it is absorbed by the rice. Continue adding broth and wine alternately to the rice, stirring all the while, until the rice is al dente and has a creamy consistency, about 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the Mascarpone and Parmigiano, blending well and stirring until the Mascarpone melts. Serve immediately.