carrot cake pancakes

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I’ve mentioned before that carrot cake isn’t really my thing. Vegetables, I believe, do not belong in cake. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed carrot cake-inspired cookies and muffins, so pancakes seemed acceptable.

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The problem with this recipe then, isn’t that it contains carrots, it’s that they have to be finely shredded. The shredding disc on your food processor isn’t fine enough; the shreds are too big to soften in the five minutes or so the pancakes cook. So I diligently shredded the carrots by hand. It was slow and tedious, and if this was required every time I had to make this recipe, it would be a dealbreaker.

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And that would be a shame, because there aren’t many opportunities to have cream cheese frosting for breakfast, and those opportunities should be maximized. Also, my dad loves carrot cake, so I’d love to make these for him – without spending half an hour shredding enough carrots to make pancakes for the whole family.

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The key is back to the food processor. It’s true that the shreds made from the disc will be too big for pancakes, but all those shreds require is a couple pulses with the regular blade attachment to chop them down to size. (I suspect processing the carrots directly with the blade would create an uneven combination of mush and chunks.) And with that, cream cheese frosting for breakfast is back on the menu.

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One year ago: Pizza with Lamb Meatballs, Caramelized Onions, and Parsley
Two years ago: Strawberry Cheesecake
Three years ago: Corned Beef Hash
Four years ago: Orange Oatmeal Currant Cookies
Five years ago: Double (or Triple) Chocolate Cookies

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Carrot Cake Pancakes (slightly adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook via Smitten Kitchen)

Makes about 12 to 16 4-inch pancakes

Jokes about cream cheese frosting for breakfast aside, these aren’t much of an indulgence. There is no fat in the pancakes themselves beyond what’s used to cook them, and there’s cream cheese but not butter in the topping. The sugar in the topping is fairly restrained, with plenty of milk to keep it loose and sauce-like. And, of course, each serving contains about one small carrot.

Pancakes:
1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups finely grated carrots (from about ¾ pound bundle whole carrots)
oil

Cream cheese topping:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup (about 1 ounce) powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the egg until thoroughly combined, then add the sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla. Stir the carrots into the wet ingredients, then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Whisk gently until the batter is mostly mixed but still contains small lumps of flour. Let the batter rest while the pan heats, about 5 minutes.

2. Heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet or a griddle over medium heat. Add about a teaspoon of oil and spread it over the bottom of the pan. Spoon 2 tablespoons of pancake batter onto the hot griddle. When the pancakes are golden brown, after about 2-3 minutes, flip to cook the other side another 2-3 minutes. Keep warm in oven heated to 200 degrees.

3. To make the cream cheese topping: In a small bowl, beat or whisk the cream cheese until fluffy and smooth. Add the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until smooth.

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pasta with broccoli, chickpeas, and garlic

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Have I told you that we’re moving? In just a few days, in fact. It isn’t a big move as far as distance, as our new house is just a 15-minute drive away from our old one, but it is big as far as life steps. Having spent the majority of our twenties in graduate school, we watched our friends buy houses while we were still solidly in apartment mode. We’ve rented a nice little house for the last three years since we moved to New Mexico, but now, finally, we’re acting like grown-ups and buying our own place.

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The process hasn’t been without its hiccups. Who knew that ordering lighting fixtures would be so complicated? I keep telling myself that, when we’re settled and I have bright and colorful pendants hanging over the breakfast bar, it’ll be worth it, but for now, I just wish we could find lights that aren’t actually purple when the website says they’re cobalt, or lights with cords that are long enough, or lights that work with the slopes of our vaulted ceilings. Not to mention the hours of packing, visits to the bank, trips to Lowe’s, and oh yeah, we’re going on vacation a week after closing.

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When we’re not eating leftovers from the freezer, we’ve been eating a lot of quick meals like this one. Even better, I’ve gotten in the habit of buying those bags of pre-cut broccoli, which shaves another ten minutes off of prep time. At that point, it’s just an issue of boiling pasta while pan-roasting broccoli, pressing garlic into the pan with a pinch of red pepper flakes, and mixing everything together with a whole lot of lemon juice and parmesan to up the flavor ante. Dinner is served in no time at all, which means I can get back to procrastinating on packing by shopping for light fixtures.

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One year ago: Star Wars Cookies
Two years ago: Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Three years ago: Roll-out Sugar Cookies (comparison of 3 recipes)
Four years ago: Roasted Kale
Five years ago: Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Pasta with Broccoli, Chickpeas, and Garlic (adapted from Gourmet via epicurious)

Serves 6

Pasta dishes like this tend to cool quickly after being transferred to serving dishes, so I like to warm the empty bowls in an oven heated to about 200 degrees.

16 ounces whole wheat pasta
salt
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 (12-ounce) bags fresh chopped broccoli (or 3 heads of broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces)
12 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
juice from 1 lemon
1 cup (2 ounces) finely grated parmesan, plus more for garnish

1. Bring 4 quarts water to a rapid boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta. Cook according to package instructions. Before draining the cooked pasta, put about 1 cup pasta cooking water in a separate bowl and set aside. Return the drained pasta to the cooking pot.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the broccoli and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and browned in spots, 4-5 minutes. Add ¼ cup water; cover the pan for 1 minute to cook the broccoli through. Remove the lid and push the broccoli to the edges of the pan. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, the garlic, and the red pepper flakes to the center of the pan. Cook, stirring constantly and excluding the broccoli as much as possible, for about 1 minute, then add the chickpeas and stir the mixture into the broccoli. Add the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt.

3. Transfer the broccoli to the pot with the pasta, stirring to incorporate. Add about half of the reserved pasta cooking water and 1 cup of cheese, stirring until the cheese melts evenly over the pasta. Taste and adjust for seasoning with more salt, lemon juice, or parmesan. Add more pasta cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Serve immediately in warmed bowls.

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chipotle shrimp

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One of the disadvantages-that-isn’t of living in New Mexico is that, with year-round access to a freezer full of Hatch green chiles, pretty much every other chile gets neglected. In the first three years after we moved here, I didn’t cook with poblanos, serranos, anaheims, or even chipotle chiles.  Hatch green (and, not as often, red) chile was the focus.

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This year we spent four hours peeling, seeding, chopping, and freezing Hatch green chiles only to realize afterward that this batch was a dud, with no flavor at all.  It’s unfortunate, but our pizzas, burgers, and beans have all been disappointing since we’ve started rationing out last year’s far superior chiles.  We’re impatient for next year’s harvest, but we’ve got five months to go.

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The upside is a resurgence of alternate chiles in our kitchen. Last week I made some smoky guacamole with roasted red peppers and poblanos, and chipotles are no longer languishing in the back of the freezer, forgotten. This recipe is a significant contribution to the disappearing chipotles, because any dish that takes twenty minutes to deliver a healthy bowl of spicy sauce and shellfish is going to be a favorite. Next year, it’ll be even better, when I use chipotles together with Hatch chiles, but for now, chipotles are all I’ve got.

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One year ago: Tomato and Four Cheese Lasagne
Two years ago: Shrimp Canapés a la Suede
Three years ago: Mediterranean Pepper Salad
Four years ago: Chocolate Whiskey Cake
Five years ago: Raspberry Bars

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Chipotle Shrimp (adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Everyday via Pink Parsley)

Serves 4 as a main course

1 (28-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes in juice
2-3 canned chipotles en adobo
1 tablespoon chipotle canning sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
salt
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup rice, cooked (about 3 cups cooked rice)
about ¼ cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro

1. Process the tomatoes, chipotle chiles, chipotle sauce, and ½ teaspoon salt in the blender until pureed.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato mixture and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste and season with salt if necessary.

3. Add the shrimp to the pan, and cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp are pink and curled up, about 6 minutes. Serve over rice with cilantro.

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manchego cheese and garlic hot dogs

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Maybe I shouldn’t play favorites between four fun and delicious hot dog recipes, but this one had roasted garlic, so…it’s my favorite.

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One thing I found through making four types of hot dogs in four days was that most hot dogs benefit from being topped with something vinegary to cut through the fat of the meat. Mustard and pickle relish are the traditional choices. In this recipe, it’s sherry vinegar, mixed into a relish of roasted garlic and roasted red peppers.

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Roasted garlic is always sweet and creamy and delicious, and a hot dog was just as good as a vehicle for serving it as my other favorite – plain rustic bread. It’s no wonder this ended up my favorite of the hot dogs from our Hot Dog Week. The roasted garlic made it a shoo-in.

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One year ago: Pasta with Salmon in Pesto Cream Sauce
Two years ago: Chocolate Frosting (comparison of 3 recipes)
Three years ago: Bacon-Wrapped Goat Cheese and Almond-Stuffed Dates
Four years ago: Honey Yogurt Dip
Five years ago: Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

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Manchego Cheese and Garlic Hot Dogs (adapted from Bon Appétit via Annie’s Eats)

Makes 6 hot dogs

Relish:
2 large heads of garlic, top ½-inch cut off
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ cup diced drained roasted red peppers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Coarse kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Sherry wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

Hot dogs:
6 grilled hot dog buns
6 grilled all-beef hot dogs
2 ounces Manchego cheese, grated

1. For the relish: Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place each head of garlic, cut side up, in the center of a square of foil; drizzle each with 1 teaspoon of oil; enclose the garlic in the foil. Place the packets on the oven rack; roast until the garlic is tender, about 45 minutes. Open the packets; cool 15 minutes.

2. Squeeze the garlic cloves into a small bowl; mash. Mix in 3 teaspoons oil, the red peppers, and parsley. Season with salt, pepper, and sherry vinegar.

3. For the hot dogs: Arrange the buns on plates. Top each with a grilled hot dog, then cheese and garlic relish. Serve immediately.

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argentinian hot dogs

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Dave and I had an impromptu get-together last fall, the same day I made cupcakes for a wedding. I already had these hot dogs planned for dinner that night, and without time to plan and shop for anything new, I had to accept that hot dogs would be the first thing I would ever cook for some of these friends. But at least they were fancy hot dogs.

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They were one topping less fancy than when Dave and I made these recently during what was basically Hot Dog Week, because I simply ran out of time and energy to make chimichurri. But homemade buns, all-beef dogs, chorizo, pickled onions, Hatch green chile, and queso fresco were plenty of toppings. These were declared the fanciest hot dogs anyone had eaten. The chorizo stole the show, as it usually does.

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But it’s too bad I didn’t get to the chimichurri the first time I made these, because it really does add a nice green element to the sandwich, which balances all the fat in the meats and cheese. Chorizo on its own makes one heck of a great hot dog topper, and I know one of our guests that day won’t make hot dogs at home without it now, but I love my hot dogs with something intensely vinegary, and this is even better because it has two different ways of drawing that flavor in, the onions and the chimichurri.  The only disadvantage is that this is so much stuff to fit into a hot dog bun that you’re bound to lose some of it on the plate, but serving hot dogs with a fork to scoop up extra goodies is a small price to pay.

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One year ago: Marinated Roasted Tofu
Two years ago: Pasta e Fagioli
Three years ago: Oatmeal Pancakes
Four years ago: Crispy Bagel Sushi Roll
Five years ago: Olive Oil Bread

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Argentinian Hot Dogs (from San Jose Mercury News via Oishii)

Makes 8 sandwiches

For the pickled onions:
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
¼ cup white wine or champagne vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar

For the chimichurri:
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch parsley leaves
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
⅛ teaspoon salt

To assemble:
8 grilled beef hot dogs
8 buns
8 ounces ground chorizo, cooked
8 ounces queso fresco , crumbled

1. For the onions: In a small bowl, combine the onion, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Set aside for at least 15 minutes.

2. For the chimichurri: Add the garlic to a food processor; process until minced. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; add the parsley and process until chopped. Add the remaining ingredients; process to combine.

3. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the hot dogs until they are browned and heated through, about 5 minutes. Toast the buns on both sides. Transfer the buns and hot dogs to plates. Fill each bun with a hot dog, chorizo, queso fresco, pickled onions, and chimichurri. Serve immediately.

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muffuletta hot dogs

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When Dave and I were brainstorming how to maximize our glorious four days at home between traveling for Christmas and going back to work, the only idea we came up with that we actually stuck with was hot dogs for lunch every day. It was actually Dave’s idea, but I’m the one who made it awesome.

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If he was expecting four days of ketchup and mustard, he doesn’t know me very well. I couldn’t resist making four different types of hot dogs, requiring the purchase of approximately one million different ingredients that would we would use only a fraction of. Practical!

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Muffaletta from Central Grocery in New Orleans was the first time I saw Dave enjoy something with olives. And I’m not surprised, because those sandwiches were amazing. I had a feeling the briny topping would work well on fatty hot dogs, and I was right.  The provolone, slightly stinky, acts as a bridge.  You don’t need me to tell you how much I miss fancy hot dogs for lunch everyday now that we’re back at work, do you?

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One year ago: Grapefruit Margaritas
Two years ago: Beef Short Ribs Braised in Tomato Sauce
Three years ago: Apple Muffins
Four years ago: Chopped Salad
Five years ago: Banana Cream Pie

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Muffuletta Hot Dogs (adapted from Bon Appétit, epicurious, and allrecipes)

Makes 8 sandwiches

If you don’t have and don’t want to buy cocktail onions, just thinly slice some red onions and put them in red wine vinegar for 15 minutes or so.

1 cup pepperoncini
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted
½ cup green olives, pitted
¼ cup cocktail onions
2 cloves garlic, toasted
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 large basil leaves (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 all-beef hot dogs
8 hot dog buns, split
16 slices provolone cheese

1. Pulse the pepperoncini, black and green olives, onions, garlic, capers, oregano, basil, and olive oil in a food processor until minced.

2. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Place the hot dogs on the grill. Place the buns, flat side up, on the grill; cover with 2 cheese slices. Grill until the cheese melts and the hot dogs are heated through, covering barbecue to allow cheese to melt, 5 minutes for hot dogs and 3 minutes for buns. Transfer the buns and hot dogs to plates. Serve with the olive mixture.

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pot roast pappardelle

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Our company closed between December 21st and January 1st. That’s twelve days – count them! I did! – off from work. We knew we’d be spending a big chunk of it visiting my family for Christmas, but we weren’t sure about the rest. We considered taking an overnight detour on the way back from Albuquerque, but sleeping in our own bed was too tempting, so we came straight home. But we were still thinking of ways to fill the time – maybe a long hike? kayaking? going to the movies?

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We did none of that. Mostly we hung out at home, reading, watching movies, catching up on sleep. Dave played his guitar and I cooked. It was glorious. I made fresh pasta twice in four days!

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I thought this pot roast would turn out a lot like this one, since it has most of the same ingredients, but I was pleasantly surprised by the difference. It seemed lighter, maybe because this meat is braised in white wine and tomato juice instead of red wine and broth. I don’t have a preference either way; both are delicious.

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Most of the fresh pasta I make goes into lasagna, which is a huge hours-long process. Compared to that, this was simple – it’s just browning meat and sautéing vegetables, then forgetting about it for almost 3 hours while it tenderizes and soaks up flavor in the oven.

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The cookbook recommends serving the pasta and sauce as a first course and the meat as a second course. Being American, we don’t generally eat in courses, and besides, that would require dragging myself off of the couch halfway through dinner, interrupting the movie, to serve the beef. (We are classy folk.) Instead, I served the beef on top of the pasta and sauce, and it was perfection. Just like the entirety of my break.

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One year ago: Ricotta
Two years ago: Chocolate Madeleines
Three years ago: Lighter Chicken and Dumplings
Four years ago: German Apple Pancake
Five years ago: Macaroni and Cheese

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Pot Roast Pappardelle (adapted from Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Pasta of Italy)

Serves 4

The original recipe calls for cooked tomato sauce and water. Because I didn’t have cooked tomato sauce on hand, I simply replaced the sauce and water with a can of diced tomatoes with their juice.

1 (2½ to 3 pound) boneless chuck roast, tied
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1½ teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 cup dry white wine
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 batch fresh pasta, rolled to the third-to-last setting, cut into ½-inch strips
freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Season the roast on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, place the roast in the pot and brown it on all sides, turning it every 3 to 4 minutes for even coloring. Transfer the browned roast to a plate. Reduce heat to medium, add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, and sauté, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the onion is golden. Stir in the thyme, wine, tomatoes, and ½ teaspoon salt. Return the meat to the pot, along with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Bring liquid to a simmer, cover, and place the pot in the oven.

2. Braise the meat, turning it every 45 minutes or so, for about 2½ hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and the sauce has thickened.

3. When the meat is almost done, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and stir to separate the noodles. Cover the pot until the water returns to a boil, then uncover and cook the pasta for just a few minutes, until al dente. Drain the pasta.

4. Remove the roast from the pot, and slice or shred it. Serve with the pasta and sauce, topped with the cheese.

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vegetable lasagna

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After spending the better part of a week visiting my parents and celebrating Christmas, Christmas Eve, my dad’s birthday, and a rare opportunity to eat sushi and get takeout from my favorite pizza joint and carne adovada breakfast burritos from my favorite burrito place (twice!), I thought maybe some vegetables were in order when we got home. On the other hand, we were still on break from work and I got a new lasagna pan for Christmas. Vegetable lasagna was clearly the answer, even if it isn’t necessarily healthy.

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I was feeling pretty good when I bought three big eggplants, three zucchini, three yellow squash (not the most seasonal recipe, but let’s face it, the quality of zucchini is pretty constant year-round even if it is a summer vegetable), and two bags of baby spinach. It seemed like an awful lot of vegetables for one pan of lasagna, but I figured they’d cook down a bunch. Besides, this is a Cooks Illustrated recipe, so they must know what they’re doing.

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Maybe they do, but my grocery store apparently doesn’t know what they’re doing when it comes to calibrating their scales in the produce department. Three eggplants resulted in quite an intimidating pile of ½-inch cubes, especially for someone who doesn’t generally love the vegetable. It didn’t lose much volume during its trip to the microwave, and the pan was so crowded when I sautéed the eggplant with the squashes that the vegetables mushed instead of browned.

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Once it became clear that I had far more vegetables than necessary, I adapted my cooking method and ended up with a big bowl of properly cooked vegetables in addition to a big bowl of mushy vegetables, plenty for two generous layers in my lasagna. The browned squash and wilted spinach were a great match for the bright tomato sauce and cheesey white sauce. But…

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That eggplant. It was just a bit rubbery and chewy. It tasted okay, but the texture was disappointing enough that I dreaded the eggplant bites, and with as much of the stuff as this lasagna contains, every bite is an eggplant bite.

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It seems like there’s a simple solution though – mushrooms. Mushrooms would go just as well with the other ingredients in this lasagna, and it’s such an easy fix that there’s no reason not to share this lasagna that has so much else going for it. And even if the eggplant was disappointing, at least I ate some vegetables and used my new pan.

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One year ago: Rice Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing
Two years ago: Pasta Puttanesca
Three years ago: Asian-Style Chicken Noodle Soup
Four years ago: Pasta with Broccoli, Sausage, and Roasted Peppers
Five years ago: Pad Thai

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Vegetable Lasagna (from Cook’s Illustrated)

I bought three of each of the eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash, but two of each would be plenty. And if you decide to substitute mushrooms for the eggplant, like I will in the future, skip the microwaving step and just sauté them separately from the squashes until they soften, release their water, dry out, and brown.

No-Cook Tomato Sauce:
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

No-Cook Cream Sauce:
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 cup whole-milk cottage cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Vegetable Filling:
1½ pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 7 cups)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 pound zucchini, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1 pound yellow squash, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
12 ounces baby spinach (about 12 cups)
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
12 ounces low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1. FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl; set aside.

2. FOR THE CREAM SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl; set aside.

3. FOR THE FILLING: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Line surface of large plate with double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Spread eggplant in even layer over filters. Wipe out and reserve now-empty bowl. Microwave eggplant, uncovered, until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure that eggplant cooks evenly. Let cool slightly. Return eggplant to bowl and toss with zucchini and squash.

4. Combine 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and thyme in small bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half eggplant mixture, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of skillet; add half of garlic mixture to clearing and cook, mashing with spatula, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir to combine garlic mixture with vegetables and transfer to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant mixture, 2 tablespoons oil, and remaining garlic mixture.

5. Return skillet to medium-high heat, add remaining teaspoon oil, and heat until shimmering. Add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer spinach to paper towel–lined plate and drain 2 minutes. Stir into eggplant mixture.

6. TO ASSEMBLE: Spray 13 by 9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of baking dish; shingle 4 noodles on top of sauce. Spread half of vegetable mixture over noodles, half of cream sauce, and 1 cup of mozzarella. Repeat layering with 4 noodles, 1 cup tomato sauce, remaining vegetables, remaining cream sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella. Place remaining 4 noodles on top layer of cheese. Spread remaining 1 cup tomato sauce over noodles and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Lightly spray large sheet of aluminum foil with vegetable oil spray and cover lasagna. Bake until bubbling, about 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack 25 minutes. Cut into pieces, sprinkle with basil, and serve.

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egg sandwiches with goat cheese, scallions, and prosciutto

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Egg sandwiches are my favorite breakfast. Yes, I’m making such a bold statement. And it’s generally not something I need much creativity in. A slice of salty ham, some bracingly sharp cheddar, and tender eggs on pretty much any kind of bread is just right for me.

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But this weekend I was in the mood for something brighter. Remembering the perfection of the combination of goat cheese, chives, and scrambled eggs in this (handy) scrambled egg tutorial, I mixed up goat cheese with the scallions I had in the fridge. The hint of funk in prosciutto would complement the tangy cheese.

whole wheat flour

And for a sandwich I had such high hopes for, only just the right bread would do; the sweet honey-glazed rolls in the freezer were not the right choice. This meant mixing up two quick pre-doughs the night before I wanted my sandwiches, one whole wheat with salt to soften the whole grains, and the other white bread flour with yeast for complexity of flavor. It meant putting the pre-doughs in the mixer with more salt, yeast, and flour first thing in the morning while I waited for my tea to steep.

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It meant waiting well over two hours for breakfast to be ready while the dough rose (in the turned off oven with the light on and a mug of steaming water) and baked. But it was worth it, oh it was. The rolls were perfect, light and tender but sturdy enough to hold up a thick layer of creamy cheese with slivers of ham and a perfectly cooked layer of egg. The scallions added just the right amount of green flavor to the sandwich. They were even better on the second day in a row that we ate these, when the bread was already made, so breakfast took 15 minutes to make and not two hours.

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One year ago: Puffed Poached Pear Tart
Two years ago: Oreo Cheesecake Cookies
Three years ago: Bourbon Pound Cake
Four years ago: Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

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Egg Sandwiches with Goat Cheese, Scallions, and Prosciutto

4 medium (about hamburger bun-sized) sandwiches

4 ounces goat cheese, softened
4 scallions, white and green parts, minced
4 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 medium rustic rolls (like ciabatta), halved crosswise
4 ounces sliced prosciutto

1. In a medium bowl, combined the goat cheese and scallions; set aside. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, and milk until a few large bubbles form.

2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and lower the heat to medium-low. After about a minute, gently stir the eggs. After about another minute, they should be starting to set; use a large spatula to flip sections of egg so the other side can set as well. Turn off the heat but don’t move the pan. Residual heat from the pan will finish cooking the eggs without drying the out while you build the sandwiches.

3. Spread the cut sides of both halves of each roll with the goat cheese mixture. Top the bottom half with a layer of eggs, then sliced prosciutto. Top with the other half of the roll. Serve immediately.

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mussels fra diavolo

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Dave took to mussels before I did. They, along with all the other bivalves, weren’t even on my radar when he came home from a dinner with coworkers raving about them. It was one of the first foods he’d tried before I had.

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Not long after, we went to a Belgian mussels and beer restaurant, and after that I was hooked. It took me a few bites to get past the slightly boogery texture, but I was sold when I tasted the liquid they were served with. It was buttery and winey and briney, and the housemade ketchup didn’t hold a candle to it as a dip for the crisp French fries served alongside.

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We’ve eaten mussels many, many times since then, but this is our favorite way. It’s garlicky and spicy, and the pasta is the perfect vehicle to mix with the sauce the mussels cook in. And the best part? Dave likes it so much, he’s willing to make dinner. This makes me love mussels at least as much as he does.

mussels fra diavolo 5

One year ago: Normandy Apple Tart
Two years ago: Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
Three years ago: Herbed Lamb Chops with Pinot Noir Sauce
Four years ago: Truffles (chocolate brand comparison)

Printer Friendly Recipe
Mussels fra Diavolo (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Shrimp fra Diavolo and Gourmet)

Serves 4

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
12 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about ¼ cup), divided
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup medium-dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
salt
¾ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon sugar
1 pound linguine
3 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded
¼ cup minced fresh parsley

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.

2. Heat a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil and 9 cloves of garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is sticky and light golden and begins to foam, about 7-10 minutes. Mix in the tomatoes, wine, 1 teaspoon salt, the red pepper flakes, and sugar. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until thickened and fragrant, about 8 minutes.

3. While the sauce is simmering, add 1 tablespoon salt and the linguine to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain; return the pasta to the now empty pot and add about ½ cup of the sauce. Toss well to coat.

4. Add the mussels to the remaining sauce and cook, covered, until they just open wide, checking frequently after 3 minutes and transferring to a bowl. Discard any mussels that remain unopened after 6 minutes.

5. Stir the remaining garlic and the parsley into the sauce. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Divide the pasta among warmed serving bowls, topping with the mussels and sauce. Serve immediately.

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