Greens with Spiced Butter and Fresh Ricotta — The Weekender

by in In Season, Recipes, October 4th, 2013

greens with ricottaI am of the belief that collard greens are perpetually misunderstood. Most people I know think these greens can be served only one way — paired with a hunk of smoked meat and cooked until they’re limp and olive-colored.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against this particular approach and have always appreciated a serving of long-braised greens. It’s just that I think it’s time to broaden our approach to the humble, healthy collard. Who knows, maybe we’ll make it as popular as its cousin kale!

My collard conversion started a few years back. I had gotten yet another bunch in my CSA share and needed desperately to free up some space in the crisper. Without time for a long braise, I decided to treat the collard greens like Swiss chard.

I cut them into thin ribbons and sauteed them in olive oil with lots of slivered garlic until they were just limp. My first bite was uncertain, as I assumed they’d be tough and chewy (because why else would you need to cook them for hours?). But I was delighted to discover they were tender and had married deliciously with the garlic.

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Apple Galette with Goat Cheese and Sour Cherries — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, In Season, September 27th, 2013

Apple Galette with Goat Cheese and Sour Cherries - The WeekenderThough I adore the strawberries, plums and peaches of summer, by the time fall rolls around each year, I am ready for apples. To me, they are a sign of cooler weather, cozy evenings and a slightly slower pace of life.

When they’re in season, I often buy apples by the half bushel. One of my favorite local orchards offers an amazing deal at our Sunday farmers market. You can fill up an entire crate of apples for $20. It means that they’re able to move a mountain of apples and I feel like I’m getting a bargain. The only trouble is that I then have 20+ pounds of apples to eat, use and preserve.

And so, I get to sorting and cooking. I fill up one whole crisper drawer with the best-looking apples for eating whole or slicing to dip in peanut butter (that is one of my all-time favorite snacks). I make applesauce, apple butter and little jars of honey-colored jelly.

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Smoked Chicken Minestrone — The Weekender

by in Recipes, September 20th, 2013

Smoked Chicken Minestrone - The WeekenderAbout a week ago, the weather in Philadelphia went from unbearably hot to blessedly cool. The air is crisp during the day and just chilly enough in the evening that socks and a second layer are necessary. After an oppressively warm, muggy summer, it is once again a joy to go outside.

I find myself making some of my normal autumn habit changes: I’ve traded my cold-brew coffee for a morning mug of hot, milky tea. Cozy scarves are back in the wardrobe rotation. And I’m making pot after pot of soup.

During the warmer months, dinnertime salads are my weeknight standby. I keep cleaned lettuce, kale or spinach in the fridge, and many nights I will top bowls of greens with chopped cucumber, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and cold chicken. Once the fall weather arrives, however, I am happy to swap out the salad routine for batches of soup that last all week.

In the last seven days, I’ve made creamy broccoli and cheddar, beef and red beet borscht and Guy Fieri’s Smoked Chicken Minestrone. The broccoli puree and the borscht are familiar recipes, but the minestrone was new. The recipe spoke to me because it included instructions on how to smoke chicken in your oven. I’ve long thought that home smoking was something best done in an outdoor rig, so I had to try this in-house technique.

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Zucchini Chili — The Weekender

by in Recipes, September 13th, 2013

Zucchini Chili - The WeekenderChili is one of my fall and winter weeknight staples. It’s one of those things that cooks up easily, is fairly forgiving and can expand endlessly. Whenever I pull out my chili pot, I make it a point to cook up a batch big enough to last for at least two nights and a couple lunches.

My standard approach involves lots of vegetables, a pound of ground turkey, plenty of spices and two or three cans of beans (I tend to use black and pinto beans, but anything I have in the pantry is fair game).

After years of eating bowl after bowl of my improvisational chili, however, my husband sweetly requested that I try to vary my chili game a little. And so, I started auditioning new recipes.

As I’ve searched, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not really looking for authenticity (my regular recipe includes Swiss chard). Instead, I want a one-pot dish that has a lot of flavor, features vegetables and beans, and if it includes meat, uses a relatively small amount.

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The Sloppy Lo — The Weekender

by in Recipes, September 6th, 2013

The Sloppy Lo - The WeekenderDuring my first few years of elementary school, my family lived in Los Angeles. Because it was almost always warm enough to eat outside, my school didn’t have a cafeteria. Instead, we just had an outdoor courtyard with plastic picnic tables and a small window through which hot lunches were dispensed.

I was mostly a brown-bag kid in those days, but occasionally, when something on the monthly menu particularly spoke to me, my parents would give me a dollar and let me buy lunch. I always asked to buy lunch on the days when they served sloppy joes.

I think part of the reason had to do with how it was served. The saucy meat came packaged in a little aluminum tray, covered tightly with foil. On top, they’d stack a waxed paper dish that held the bun and a plastic cup of applesauce or fruit cocktail. You’d go to your seat with a carton of milk, a napkin and a plastic spork to assemble your very own sandwich. I loved it.

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Cowboy Bacon Beans — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Recipes, August 30th, 2013

Cowboy Bacon BeansThe impending Labor Day holiday means that summer is rapidly drawing to a close. All across the country, people are starting to shift into their back-to-school and work routines. There’s still a little time left before you pack up the citronella candles, however, to squeeze in one more fiesta.

The secret to end-of-season party giving is to keep it super simple. No need for complicated cocktails or loads of decorations. Buy watermelon, corn on the cob and tomatoes. They are at their best right now and need nothing to be delicious.

Tell your guests to bring something to throw on the grill (and make sure you have a couple packages of backup hotdogs, just in case). Put out an easy green salad. And for your single cooked item, make a pot of The Pioneer Woman’s Cowboy Bacon Beans.

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Ratatouille with Poached Eggs and Garlic Croutons — The Weekender

by in In Season, August 23rd, 2013

Ratatouille with Poached Eggs and GarlicEvery August, I spend a few weeks going a little bit crazy for ratatouille. There is something magical that happens when you combine eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic and whatever herbs you happen to have around.

Part of the reason I’m so fond of this late-summer dish is that it’s one I grew up eating. My mom often made it when we were young with produce straight from the garden. Sometimes she served it chunky, but more often, she’d push it through a food mill and call it soup. It’s funny how much more willing we were to eat it when it was smooth and without any visible bits of veggie.

My Grandma Bunny was also a huge fan of ratatouille. She frequently made it in a large skillet, topped it with a layer of grated Parmesan cheese and popped it under the broiler until the cheese bubbled and browned. Served with chicken thighs marinated in lemon, garlic and olive oil, it was regular dinner for our extended family.

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Creamed Corn Succotash with Cotija — The Weekender

by in In Season, Recipes, August 16th, 2013

Creamed Corn Succotash with CojitaThe first 25 years of my life, I ate fresh corn just one way: It was shucked, boiled until tender and slathered with butter. And while that’s a delicious way to handle the sweet corn of summer, I’ve learned during the last decade that there are many other ways to do it justice.

It was a batch of grilled corn that first opened my eyes to corn’s flexibility. I was at a cookout and a friend set shucked and lightly oiled cobs on a hot barbecue and kept turning them until the kernels were speckled and golden. Topped with mayonnaise and a little grated cheese, it was transcendentally good.

Once the corn floodgates were open, it was a quick trip to corn salads, salsas and chowders. Really, the only thing I’ve not done with corn is make jelly from the corncobs (a traditional Southern preserve).

This summer, the corn has been particularly abundant, and we’ve been getting a dozen or more ears each week at our farm share pickup. I’ve done every one of my regular preparations, and still, there’s more. Happily, I’ve recently discovered another recipe to add to my repertoire. It’s Bobby Flay’s Creamed Corn Succotash with Cotija, and I can’t stop eating it.

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Fresh Peach Cake — The Weekender

by in In Season, Recipes, August 9th, 2013

Fresh Peach Cake - The WeekenderA ripe peach is one of the true joys of late summer. When they’re in season, I buy at least five pounds at a time from my Saturday morning farmers market. Through the course of the week, I slice them over yogurt for breakfast. Come lunchtime, I heap them on toast with a little fresh ricotta and mint. When I’m on my own for dinner, I tumble them into a bowl of greens with crumbled feta (my husband doesn’t dig fruit in salads). Just before bed, I’ll grab one as a snack and eat it messily over the sink.

However, despite my best efforts, there are sometimes a few stray peaches left at the end of the week that are starting to get slightly too soft to be eaten raw. That’s when I turn to baked goods. There are all sorts of transcendent peach-based quick breads, tarts and scones out there, but there’s a particular cake that’s claimed my heart this summer: Ina Garten’s Fresh Peach Cake.

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Basmati Rice Pilaf with Prosciutto, Garbanzo Beans and Orzo — The Weekender

by in Recipes, August 2nd, 2013

Basmati Rice Pilaf with ProsciuttoFor most of my life, I thought rice pilaf came either from a small cardboard box or a steam table at my college cafeteria. It never occurred to me that it was something that could be made from scratch with just a few pantry ingredients.

Happily, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that a pilaf is a dish that can easily be made at home and without any packaging at all. When cooked from scratch, it bears more than a passing resemblance to risotto and goes well with all manner of saucy foods.

This time of year, I like to make a batch of oven-roasted ratatouille and spoon it over a layer of pilaf. The rice soaks up the juice and while other ingredients bring flavor and texture to the meal.

Right now, my go-to pilaf is Guy Fieri’s Basmati Rice Pilaf with Prosciutto, Garbanzo Beans and Orzo. The prosciutto lends a porky meatiness, while the garbanzo beans add light protein. It’s a perfect pairing and a quick summer meal just right for The Weekender.

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