All Posts By Marisa McClellan

Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, also called Food in Jars, will be published by Running Press in spring 2012.

Parmesan Fennel Gratin — The Weekender

by in Recipes, March 21st, 2014

Parmesan Fennel Gratin - The WeekenderDuring the winter months, when most of the farmers markets in my area are closed, I find that I almost always default to the same five vegetables at the grocery store. We can eat only so much broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale, however, before edible fatigue sets in.

So I’ve been making a point to reach for vegetables outside of the standard five. I picked up a bag of snow peas recently, which made for a nice treat. Beets have made several appearances. And fennel has been hopping into my shopping basket a lot lately.

Fennel is actually a great vegetable to have in the crisper drawer, because it can do a variety of things. You can mince it and saute it into soups and stews in place of celery. You can shave it finely and dress it with a simple vinaigrette. It makes a very nice quick pickle. And as I learned recently, it works beautifully as a gratin.

I used Ina Garten’s recipe for Parmesan Fennel Gratin. She is the queen of simple, lush dishes, and this recipe did not let me down. She has you core the bulbs and cut them into two to four wedges. They get a dose of wine-fortified stock, are dotted with butter and covered with foil. You slide the pan into a hot oven and let them braise until they are entirely tender.

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Potluck Meatballs — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Recipes, March 14th, 2014

Potluck MeatballsMeatballs were not a regular menu item in my childhood home. My mom thought they were overly fussy and opted to make meatloaf or meaty tomato sauce when confronted with a pound of ground beef.

Because meatballs were a rarity for me, of course I longed for them. When I was older and cooking for myself, I added a pair of meatball recipes to my dinnertime rotation.

The first recipe I made was with ground lamb, feta cheese, minced red onion and a splash of red wine vinegar. We eat those meatballs with big green salads topped with roasted peppers and onions.

The second recipe is one my friend Joy invented. It uses ground chicken, ricotta cheese and minced onions, and the resulting meatballs are gloriously tender. I like to eat them over a bed of sauteed kale and topped with buttery marinara sauce.

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Fridge Frittata — The Weekender

by in Recipes, March 7th, 2014

Fridge Frittata - The WeekenderEggs are my comfort food. When I’ve had a rough day, I eat them fried and served over buttered toast cubes. Mornings when I know I’ll need lots of energy, I eat them scrambled with grape tomatoes and avocado. And nights when I can’t imagine cooking anything ambitious, I simmer tomato puree with kale and garlic and poach two eggs per diner in the sauce.

When it comes to eggs for a crowd, I’m very fond of big egg bakes and frittatas. I have a couple favorite versions (spinach, red peppers and goat cheese is one I make a lot), but I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for add-ins and toppings.

Katie Lee’s Fridge Frittata came to my attention recently and I knew immediately that it was a recipe worth trying. She has you saute deli ham, peas and leftover french fries (oven-roasted potatoes or a handful of frozen hash browns would also work) in an oven-safe skillet. You add whisked eggs and then dollop on ricotta cheese and dabs of pesto. It puffs as it bakes and makes a glorious main dish for brunch or supper.

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Teriyaki Chicken with Soba — The Weekender

by in Recipes, February 28th, 2014

Teriyaki Chicken with Soba - The WeekenderI grew up in a family where we ate a home-cooked dinner together nearly every night. The food was a rotation of comforting things like roasted chicken legs, skillet chili and baked salmon, and my parents were always juggling grocery shopping and cooking duties in order to make it happen.

On the rare nights when the grocery and cooking system hit a snag, we’d go down the road to Best Teriyaki. They served an array of grilled and teriyaki-glazed meats alongside steamed rice and piles of sauteed cabbage and broccoli. It was affordable, relatively healthy and entirely delicious. My sister and I loved it.

Thanks to that early conditioning, on nights when I’m weary and want relief from the kitchen, I crave teriyaki chicken. Sadly, Philadelphia does not have the same profusion of teriyaki restaurants that my childhood home in Portland, Ore., did, so to satisfy this yearning, I have to make my own (though I do always wait for a night when the desire to cook has returned).

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Roasted Cauliflower Melt — The Weekender

by in Recipes, February 21st, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower MeltDuring the fall and winter months, cauliflower becomes one of my staple vegetables, and we end up eating it at least once a week (and even more often during the depth of the season). The only trouble with my cauliflower habit is that it always ends up as a side dish and never as the dinnertime star.

That’s not to say that I don’t like the three ways I make it (mashed, roasted or baked in a cheesy sauce). But lately I’ve been seeing lots of ways that people are transforming cauliflower into the main event, and I want in on that action.

There’s this whole roasted cauliflower head that seems mighty intriguing, along with cauliflower steaks and pots of nutty, caramelized cauliflower soup.

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Chocolate-Orange Fondue — The Weekender

by in Holidays, February 14th, 2014

Chocolate-Orange Fondue - The WeekenderWhen I was in my mid-20s, some girlfriends and I started a Valentine’s Day tradition. Being that we were all single at the time, we chose to spend the evening of February 14 together instead of pining over ex-boyfriends and lost loves.

My friend Cindy would be on cocktail duty. Ingrid was in charge of selecting the movie. Una always brought the appetizers. And I took care of making our chosen dinner — fondue.

We’d start with a pot of cheese fondue with bread, steamed broccoli and grilled chicken for dipping. Once we’d had our fill of the savory course, I’d bring out a small pot of chocolate fondue with strawberries, orange segments, pound cake cubes and pretzel sticks. It was such a fun way to celebrate our loving friendships on a day most often reserved for romance.

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Wild Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Farrotto — The Weekender

by in Recipes, February 7th, 2014

Wild Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Farrotto - The WeekenderI discovered risotto when I was 27 years old. Before that, my only experience of anything even remotely risotto-like came from a box or involved a can of cream of mushroom soup. For a time, I made it every week as a way to stretch leftovers.

Lately I’ve been trying to eat more whole grains and fewer things that are blindingly white. I thought this meant that I’d need to give up my risotto habit entirely, but I’ve discovered that white rice isn’t the only grain with which one can make a savory pudding that stretches the end of a roast chicken into a brand-new meal.

I’ve tried it with barley, wheat berries and even oat groats, but the grain that has come out on top is definitely farro. Though some people argue about what farro is exactly, most typically believe it’s the whole-grain version of cereal crops known as einkorn, emmer and spelt.

A risotto made with farro won’t be quite as creamy as one made with rice, but it is worth making nonetheless. I really enjoy the sturdiness and texture of the grain. Unlike traditional risottos, this version reheats beautifully (though sadly, that means there’s no need to make risotto cakes).

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Beer Mac and Cheese — The Weekender

by in Recipes, January 31st, 2014

Beer Mac and Cheese - The WeekenderMy husband’s birthday is coming up and to celebrate I’m throwing a little birthday party. It won’t be a fancy gathering — just some easy food, a Funfetti cake (I am not a fan of boxed cakes, but it’s his favorite), and a bunch of our friends and their kids.

Part of my easy food plan involves several pans of macaroni and cheese. Scott loves the stuff, it’s easy to make in large quantities and the opportunities for making it more interesting are pretty darn endless.

As the plan stands right now, I’ll make one pan of basic, no-frills mac and cheese for those who can’t stand anything beyond noodles in a creamy cheese sauce. I’m still shopping for a recipe to serve the more adventurous eaters, however.

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Chicken and Green Bean Casserole — The Weekender

by in Recipes, January 24th, 2014

Chicken and Green Bean Casserole - The WeekenderI have a bad habit of isolating myself this time of year. Part of it is practical. My busy work season is April through November, so during these chilly months, I like to hunker down and get some neglected projects and tasks accomplished. But after spending long stretches of time working from home, with only my husband to break the quiet, I find that I need a little socialization. That’s when I put the out the potluck call.

All it takes is a quick email to a bunch of friends and, suddenly, a communal meal comes together. Sometimes we plan to do a Sunday morning brunch. Other times it’s a basic shared meal on a Thursday evening. It’s as much about contact and community as it is about the food.

I do have a couple of guidelines when it comes to cooking for a potluck. If I’m hosting, I always like to provide a dish that contains both a protein and a vegetable. That way, if the only other things on the table are wine, bread and dessert, I still feel like it’s a fairly balanced meal.

Before you start cooking, read these tips

No-Bake Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter Squares — The Weekender

by in Family, Recipes, January 17th, 2014

No-Bake Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter SquaresI spent most of last week in Austin hanging out with my sister and her family. It was a trip I planned months ago, for no other reason than to see their new house and get a chance to spend many days playing trains with my 2-year-old nephew, Emmett.

One of Emmett’s favorite things to do is to pretend to make food (pizza and soup are two of his regulars). Because of that, I thought it would be fun to do a real food project with him. To maintain my sanity, I went in search of a no-bake cookie recipe and came up with Trisha Yearwood’s Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter Squares.

You start by crushing up enough pretzels to make two cups of crumbs. I put them in a big zip-top bag and told Emmett to break them. He put the bag on the floor and jumped up and down on it. He enjoyed it greatly and it worked perfectly. Once they’re crushed, stir in melted butter, powdered sugar and peanut butter until fairly well integrated. I got it started so that the sugar wouldn’t explode everywhere and then let Emmett help with the stirring.

When that base layer is fully combined, pat it into a baking pan. This is another opportunity for a kiddo to help. I put a sheet of aluminum foil down and had him help me push it flat.

Before you start assembling, read these tips

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