Tag Archives: Side Dish

Cheesy Pumpkin Polenta


Don’t you hate when a recipe calls for less than the full can of pureed pumpkin? I’ve thrown away more 3 month old half-cups of pumpkin puree than I can even tell you. So after making these gems last weekend, I found myself with the age old conundrum: what to do with the extra pumpkin?

DUH. You add cheese. Why do I even bother contemplating?

I can’t lie to you, I ate this straight from the bowl with a spoon and I didn’t apologize for it one tiny bit. But it would also be stupendous as a bed for pork chops with sauteed apples or pulled pork or grilled chicken with roasted tomatoes. Am I right, or am I right?

On the menu:
Cheesy Pumpkin Polenta
Serves 2

1/4 cup white onion, minced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup whole milk (or half and half)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup polenta
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

In a small pan, heat 1 Tbsp butter over medium/low heat. Add onion and sautee until very soft, around 8 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and heat for another 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium sized saucepan, heat water, milk, salt, and pepper until it boils. Stir in polenta in a gradual, thin stream, whisking constantly. Turn heat to low and continue cooking for 4 – 5 minutes.

Stir pumpkin/onion mixture into the milk and water mixture and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes until hot and combined. Remove from the heat and stir in remaining butter and grated cheese. Serve immediately.

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The Week of the Garbage Plate

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to come in contact with Jim at Rochester Plate Sauce. That’s right, kids. There is a company that packages and sells the glorious (some might say, magical) hot sauce that tops Rochester Garbage Plates. If you’ve never had one, you’re probably thinking, “Whooooo cares? It’s just hot sauce, right?”

WRONG.

This sauce is finely ground beef with about a bajillion spices in it and although I’ve never attempted to make it at home, I can only imagine how labor intensive it is to make. Visions of me, 60 pounds heavier, sweating profusely, with O Sole Mio playing in the background, float around in my head.

Anyhow, Jim sent me a sample of this incredible sauce and finally forced me (FORCED me, I tell you!) to make a garbage plate at home. What else am I gonna do with this sauce?! Well… I’m gonna try a bunch of things. But first things first: the trash plate.

This week I’ll be providing you all the steps you need to take to make these divine plates yourself. And just know that obtaining the sauce is as easy as clicking the link here.

On the menu:
Step 1: Macaroni Salad
Serves 10 (but will make enough mac salad for 5 Garbage Plates)

1 lb elbow macaroni
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 white vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp yellow mustard
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 large white onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/4 cup carrot, chopped

Boil macaroni per instructions. Once it’s cooked, drain and run under cool water to stop the cooking.*

Stir together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in vegetables until combined. Once pasta is completely cooled add dressing to macaroni and stir to combine. Chill for at least one hour before serving for best results.

*Note: if you stir together warm pasta with the dressing, the liquid will get absorbed into the macaroni and you’ll have a less creamy mac salad. I know it’s tough, but wait it out and let it cool. It’ll be well worth it, I promise.

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Post Holiday Blues

Hey remember how great it was to spend an extended weekend (or in my case, 10 days) doing nothing but stuffing your face and sleeping in and enjoying the snow from your warm snuggly couch with a cup of hot tea? I hope to carry that feeling all the way through New Year’s and ring in 2011 plump and happy. It’s a personal goal.

I realize I’m late with Thanksgiving recipes, but this next one (and tomorrow’s) can be enjoyed all winter long. It’s just comfort food, kids. No need to put a label on it.

On the menu:
Butternut squash, leek, and apple gratin
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 5

3 small leeks, white part only (tough outer skin removed), halved and thinly sliced
3 large Granny Smith apples, halved, cored, and sliced 1/2 inch thick slices
1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/8 inch slices
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350. Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and 2 Tbsp of water, and sautee 3-4 minutes. Add white wine and sage, and cook 5-7 minutes until the wine has reduced by half. Remove from heat.

In a shallow baking dish, layer the butternut squash in one overlapping layer. Salt and pepper. Layer leeks over the top of the squash. Layer apples on top of the leeks. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes at 350. Raise heat to 450, remove the foil, sprinkle cheese on top and bake for 10 minutes until bubbling.

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I Love ’em All

Pancakes, that is. I. Love. Pancakes. Is it a simple batter? Can it be flipped using a spatula and a griddle? Is it flat and round? I will eat it, sir.

To celebrate the early acquisition of a highly coveted new cookbook, I picked a pancake recipe and hopped to. Amanda Hesser’s upcoming The Essential New York Times Cookbook is everything you could ever want from food in the New York Times. She has pulled recipes from literally every decade of the Times’ recipe section’s existence, tried the recipes out, and offered up her suggestions for making them delicious in the present day. I freaking love this cookbook. And I ESPECIALLY love the hilarious but still tempting recipes from the 1970s and 80s, most of which involve pickling and weird methods of serving eggs. This is the stuff, people. This. Is. The. Stuff.

On the menu:
Fresh corn griddle cakes with parmesan and chives
Serves 4-6
Adapted from Amanda Hesser’s version of Jack Bishop’s “If Corn’s Off the Cob, Use Your Imagination” from The Essential New York Times Cookbook, published by W. W. Norton, available in October 2010

4 medium ears corn, shucked
1 egg
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tbsp chives, snipped
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Working over a large bowl, grate the corn on the large holes of a box grater until the cobs are clean; discard the cobs. Add the egg, flour, cheese, chives, salt, and pepper to the corn. Stir until the batter is smooth. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper as needed.

Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Scoop up 1/4 cup of the thick batter and scrape it into the skillet, smoothing the mound to a flat pancake for cooking. Cook each pancake for 6 minutes on each side for best results (you want each cake crispy on the outside and cooked all the way through, unlike a traditional pancake that is more delicate).

Et voila! Crispy corn cakes that you can serve with virtually any meal. They would be lovely in a bread basket on the table at dinner with roast chicken and mashed potatoes, or warmed in the toaster with a pat of butter and maybe a little mango salsa over top. I was also thinking these would be phenomenal in place of an English muffin in Eggs Benedict. But then again… I am literally always thinking of Eggs Benedict.

Please don’t judge me.

Bon weekend!

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The Cheesiest Mac of them All

I cook because I love food, but I also cook because I love making other people happy via food. One time my friend Meagan came over around dinner time when I had made mac and cheese, and proceeded to eat three bowls of it. I couldn’t have been happier. There is no higher compliment to a cook than guests going back for seconds.

On the menu:
Mac and cheese with pancetta (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 6 as a meal, 10 as a side

6 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups (or less) whole milk
2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 pound macaroni (any medium-sized pasta will do: penne, orecchiette, gemelli, etc. – I used penne and gemelli here because it’s all I had in my pantry)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and get a large pot of salted water boiling for pasta. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onion; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; stir 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter; allow to melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute. [Now is a good time to start cooking your pasta – cook until al dente] Gradually whisk in 1 cup of milk; simmer until thick enough to coat spoon thickly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in all cheeses. Whisk in more milk by 1/4 cupfuls until sauce is thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and stir until very light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Lightly butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add warm cheese sauce to drained al dente pasta; toss to coat. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over. Bake mac and cheese until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. [I added a little more cheddar to the top of mine, because I really, really like cheese… but if you’re trying to avoid a heart attack, maybe leave off the extra]

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And they call it buona notte…

One of the reasons I love to cook is because I love to eat. And so does my family. The main topic of conversation at breakfast is what’s for lunch, and by the time two o’clock in the afternoon rolls around, all we can talk about is where we’ll go for dinner. So when my mother suggested that I cook the family dinner this weekend, I was flattered and nervous all at once. Let’s just say no one holds back their true feelings when it comes to the quality of a meal.

It was in this vein that I chose an Italian classic, crossed my fingers, closed my eyes, and hoped for the best.

On the menu:
Chicken cacciatore
Roasted broccoli with lemon
Serves 4

Chicken:
1 whole chicken, cut into roughly 12 pieces
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup lemon juice (or the juice from one lemon)
3 sprigs rosemary
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like your chicken with a kick)
1 cup dried mixed mushrooms (porcini, oyster, shiitake)*
3 cups dry white wine (2 cups to soak mushrooms**, 1 cup for cooking chicken)
1 cup water
3 cups chopped tomatoes with juice

*Your local grocery store should have dried mushrooms in prepackaged pouches
**Half an hour before you start cooking, put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour 2 cups of white wine over them to soak, soften, and marinate the mushrooms. Before you add the mushrooms as directed below, drain them and discard the used wine

Preheat oven to 350. Toss the chicken in a bowl with salt, pepper, garlic, and a little of the olive oil.
Put the rest of the olive oil in a large skillet and heat until very hot (the oil HAS to be hot to crisp the skin of the chicken). Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and garlic to the pan, and sear for 3-4 minutes on each side (if the garlic starts to burn, place it on top of the chicken).
Pour the lemon juice over the chicken and add the rosemary, turning down the heat to medium.
Add the red pepper and the remaining cup of white wine to deglaze the skillet.
Once the wine has reduced by half (around 10 minutes), add the marinated mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes.
Remove the chicken and set aside. Taste the mushrooms and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes with juice and the 1 cup of water. Taste again and season with salt and pepper.
Turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste again and season with salt and pepper.
Return chicken to skillet and simmer for 15 minutes.
Put whole skillet in oven and bake for another 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked throught. If your chicken pieces are huge, they may need a couple extra minutes in the oven.

Broccoli:
1 large head of broccoli
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice (or the juice from one lemon)
salt and pepper

Turn oven to 450. Cut broccoli into individual stalks. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet so there is space between the stalks. Bake at 450 for 5 minutes. Remove broccoli, toss with lemon juice and a liberal amount of fresh ground pepper. Return to baking sheet and bake for another 8 minutes.

Here are pictures of Wednesday’s carrot cake. WOW this came out well. The cake is dense and spicy, with the perfect complement of smooth, cheesy frosting. The decoration was a total flop, so I’m pretending that it never happened and giving you a picture of the inside instead. Way prettier, I promise.

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Primavera

Last Friday, as the snow pummeled Queens and I didn’t venture any further than my own block, Becca’s lovely husband, Giuseppe, whipped up a mushroom risotto that I want to eat every day for the rest of my life. Modeled on Giuseppe’s recipe, I created something similar tonight for dinner. And in light of the slightly warmer temperatures we’ve been having this week, I threw in a little green because I can not wait one more freaking day for spring to arrive.

P.S. Don’t let risotto scare you! It’s actually ridiculously easy.

On the menu: Giuseppe’s Mushroom Risotto with Asparagus
Serves 2 (I made this as a side dish with a lemon rosemary chicken that wasn’t super memorable, but risotto can totally take center stage in a meal if you so choose – just keep in mind, this might not be sufficient sustenance for 2 if it’s all you’re having)

1/2 cup arborio rice
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups chicken stock, simmering
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sized shallot, finely chopped
1 cup white mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 cup asparagus, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp butter*
3 Tbsp heavy cream*
3 Tbsp grated parmesan

Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat (keep in mind risotto triples in volume, so make sure your pan is big enough – I’ve made that unfortunate mistake before). Add mushrooms and let soften for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and shallots, constantly stirring for 3 minutes. Careful not to let the garlic burn. Add the rice, stirring so all the grains are coated in olive oil. Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock at a time, adding more as the grains soak up the liquid, stirring occasionally. When adding the last half cup of chicken stock, also add asparagus. Once the risotto has soaked up all the stock, add the butter and cream and stir until blended. Plate, sprinkle with parmesan, and eat immediately (risotto turns into a gummy mess if you let it sit too long).

*Note that the butter and cream are optional. While this is not exactly a “healthy” dish (someday I’ll make something Dr. Oz would approve of…) it becomes infinitely more so without the addition of butter and cream, and you’re not really sacrificing that much. But I will tell you… everything is better with butter and cream. Everything.

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