I have a shameful confession. I hate peas. No. Really. I hate them. Was I frightened by a pea as a child? Did peas steal my lunch money in grade school? Did I have a bad pea dating experience? It’s a mystery, but I have never, ever liked peas. This from a person who never really understood the concept of a “picky eater.”
My grammy knew of my pea antipathy and indulged my vegetable peculiarty. Her renown Shepherd’s Pie recipe included peas and lots of them, unless I was visiting. Then it became magically and deliciously pea-free. Her Shepherd’s Pie was comfort food that to this day, can make a bad day better and turn a frown upside down. It’s a delightfully homespun preparation that takes me back to an easier time. And now it is one of my family’s favorites too.
The magic of Shepherd’s Pie is the marriage of fragrant meat, mixed with veggies (really, any veggies) and topped with a fluffy cloud of mashed potatoes. I found that incorporating cheddar cheese into the spuds as you mash them, takes this dish from heavenly to downright divine.
So if, like most people, you are a fan of the pea, you should definitely include them in your dish. It’s true, just about any veggies work well, so go crazy and throw them in.
Follow the link below for the recipe.
Let the rejoicing commence throughout the land. I have a new camera! So this post isn’t as much about the food as it is about my first tentative steps using a big-girl camera, a new Canon EOS D60. For years I’ve had camera envy. I’ve followed blogs whose photographs inspired me to cook – and eventually photograph – better and more creatively, blogs like Creative Culinary, The Professional Palate, The Pioneer Woman, and the amazing food blogger/photographers at Gojee. And so many others.
So I took the plunge, knowing that the learning curve would be steep and treacherous and the technology daunting. Today’s post is my very first foray into the world of DSLR photography.
As with many things I cook, this offering makes use of the food I had on hand and my desire to use it while it was at its freshest. This morning, a friend brought me beets straight from his garden. I am a huge fan of the humble beet and it’s earthy, rich flavor. I am also a fan of the health benefits of this red, red root. The same goes for sweet potatoes, which are a staple in my kitchen.
This preparation couldn’t be simpler, but it makes a delicious, healthy side dish or a satisfying main course for a vegetarian meal. Though you can make this with as few or as many vegetables as you want, I always make extra. The leftovers are amazing.
Follow the link below for the recipe.
At my house, summer in Maine is a revolving door of family, friends, and unexpected guests. And while there is nothing I love more than feeding a house full of hungry people, I also want to take time to enjoy the myriad charms of the Maine coast at its most beautiful.
Recently, I got a call from friends who were passing through on their way to Bar Harbor. They called late in the morning, saying they planned to arrive at dinnertime. It was a gorgeous day – perfect for a kayak and I didn’t want to waste a second of it going to the store.
So before I put my boat in the water, I raided my refrigerator and pantry with the thought of recreating a long lost family favorite, Marinated Cheese. It probably comes as no surprise that I always have a few bars of Cabot Cheddar in my fridge. But for these guests I wanted to do something a bit more creative, elegant, and fun than just cheese and crackers.
Years ago, I had a friend who was born and raised in Georgia. She ran a wildly successful catering business. Her signature was an amazing appetizer that was always a hit, no matter where she served it. My son, at the time a budding five year old foodie, called it Swimming Cheese, because of its fragrant marinade bath. Eventually, everyone was demanding Swimming Cheese for their next event.
While I didn’t have a specific recipe at hand, I remembered enough to improvise on this one. It turned out to be just as lovely as I remembered.
Here’s what I had on hand to get started: a lime, still juicy, but nearing the end of its shelf life, white wine vinegar, olive oil, a small jar of roasted red peppers, some capers, a solitary shallot hiding at the bottom of the onion basket, basil from my garden, and various forms and flavors of The World’s Best Cheddar. It was all I really needed to forge ahead.
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup vinegar (I used white wine)
juice of one lime or lemon
1 shallot, minced (you can use 2 tablespoons of minced onion or a couple of minced scallions)
1/2 of a 4oz. jar of roasted peppers, chopped
2 tbls capers (optional)
1/3 cup basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 8oz bars of Cabot Cheddar, Montery Jack, Colby Jack, or Muenster
Whisk lime or lemon juice together with vinegar and olive oil. Add shallots, peppers, basil (as well as capers, if you have them) and salt and pepper. Set the marinade aside.
Cut cheese slices about 1/4 inch thick and then cut in half to make bite-sized pieces. To save time and effort, I arranged the slices artfully on a dish, poured the marinade over the cheese, covered the whole thing with plastic wrap, and popped it in the refrigerator. You can marinate the cheese in a plastic storage container and arrange a platter later, if you want.
Let the cheese marinate for as long as possible. Eight hours or overnight is best, but you can get away with as little as four hours if you’re crunched for time.
Preparing the marinade is quick and easy. I used what I had on hand; you should too. You can give this dish a southwest flavor by adding minced garlic and cumin, substituting cilantro for the basil and adding hot peppers. You can also use flavored cheeses. I had half a bar of Cabot Tomato Basil Cheddar and a couple of bags of Serious Snacking bars, one of which was Reduced Fat Habanero Cheddar. This isn’t brain surgery, so use your imagination and what’s handy. It’s pretty hard to make a mistake here, folks.
Just about everyone I know is on a reduced carb diet these days, so I served my cheese platter sans crackers or bread. I put out party picks for the cheese and a jar of my friend Marji’s famous Dilly Beans for a little veggie punctuation. Pairing this summer fare with a bottle of vinho verde completed the offering.
So pretty, so summery, so yummy…everybody in the pool for a swim!
For years, my mother has had a subscription to People magazine. She dutifully reads it from cover to cover and passes it on to me the following week, as the most current edition hits her mailbox. I often let these back issues stack up until I have a chance to read them. This is most likely to happen on a plane flight or a rainy Sunday afternoon.
And rain it did this past Sunday. The cold, gray day forced me onto the couch, surrounded by snoring dogs and the waterlogged pages of People. Did I mention that my mother often reads these in the bathtub? I’m not sure when it happened, but there is now a recipe or two in every issue, often by a celebrity chef or even the celebrity du jour — Beyonce! Kim Kardashian! That dude from Survivor!
Mostly I just skip over the recipes, but one recent entry caught my eye…and my imagination. You see, I’m on a low-carb tear these days. For the past year, I’ve been successful in controlling my weight and my pre-diabetic condition by cutting out sugars and carbohydrates. More and more, doctors are telling us it’s not fat that’s making us fat, it’s refined carbs and sugars. Sadly, this means my pasta consumption has declined dramatically.
And I miss it. Like nobody’s business. I miss spaghetti bolognese. I miss pasta pesto. And boy, do I ever miss macaroni and cheese. But here was a recipe that seemed to be offering me a reasonable alternative, from the winner of a reality cooking show called MasterChef.
The inaugural season’s winner, Whitney Miller’s recipe for Cauliflower “Mac n’ Cheese” gets a huge thumbs of from me. It’s easy to make, completely delicious, and fits my new food lifestyle perfectly. I’m going to give you Whitney’s recipe, but the changes I made are in italics.
Smack (your lips it’s so yummy) n’ Cheese
8 cups cauliflower florets (1 head) I used more, almost two heads
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt I used Maine sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted Cabot butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cup fat-free milk
1/2 cup heavy cream I used Half & Half
1/4 tsp. table salt
Next time I’m going to add a bit of diced pancetta for a flavor and texture boost.
This Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farm is pretty amazing!
Preheat oven to 400º. Toss florets in oil on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and lightly browned, about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven and reduce heat to 350º.
I used a white head of cauliflower and a pretty pale orange one.
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for one minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened, two to four minutes. Whisk in cream and cook for five minutes.
Remove pan from heat and stir in salt and pepper and all but two tsp. of cheese. Stir over medium-low heat.
Yummy Cheddar and Blue Cheese sauce.
Place cauliflower in an 8 x 8 glass baking dish or four 10-oz. ramekins. Pour cheese sauce on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until sauce is bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.
Drool-worthy Smack n’ Cheese
April is another one of those months where the complex cultural nature of my family comes into play. We’ll be celebrating both Passover and Easter with equal enthusiasm, especially at the holiday table. I wanted to create a substantial and seasonal side dish that would work for both occasions – and many others, for that matter. I wanted to be able to make something ahead of time so that I could pop it in the oven when people started gathering and it would be ready to eat when we were.
Combining my favorite ingredients and getting a little creative about the crust, I came up with a medley of vegetables on a crust of crumbled matzo, known as farfel, to make this Torta Primavera.
2 cups farfel
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tbl olive oil
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can quartered artichokes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup Cabot Horseradish Cheddar (any Cabot Cheddar will work), shredded
1/4 cup of milk
Preheat oven to 375º. Soak the farfel in cold water for about 10 minutes, then drain and press out excess moisture. In a large bowl, mix farfel with melted butter. In a 9″ pie plate, press the farfel mixture on the bottom and up the sides to form a crust. Bake in oven until lightly browned. Set aside.
Farfel Pie Crust
Take whatever veggies you decide to use. I chopped an onion, used some leftover grated carrots I had from the salad bar, added a can of quartered artichokes, and broke the florets from a small head of cauliflower into tiny pieces. I also minced two cloves of garlic. You may want to only use one, or none at all.
In a large skillet I heated the olive oil over a medium high flame and sauteed them for about 5 -7 minutes. Then I added the white wine and continued cooking for another 5 – 7 minutes, until most of the wine had absorbed or evaporated. You can easily substitute chicken broth in this step.
Hooray for the Saute!
Cover the bottom of the farfel crust with half the grated cheddar. I used Cabot Horseradish because it’s perfect with my Passover menu. Any Cabot Cheddar would work well in this dish. I can’t wait to try it with Seriously Sharp or Garlic and Herb. Then add the cooked and softened veggies. Top them with the remaining cheddar. In a small bowl which the eggs and milk together and pour over the vegetable and cheese mixture. At this point, you can store the pie covered in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours and cook it whenever you’re ready.
Ready for the Oven
Place in the center rack of the oven and cook for about a half an hour until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
This is a lovely side dish, which with small slices will serve 8 or 10. It would also make a delicious vegetarian entree serving 4 or 5.
Torta Primavera. Positively Perfect for Passover…or Easter
Don’t be afraid to mix it up and try your favorite veggies. Next time I plan to use zucchini, spinach and tomatoes. I think the combination of artichokes and sun dried tomatoes would be pretty fabulous, too.
Let your imagination guide your torta!
T. S. Eliot famously wrote “April is the cruellest month.” I’m thinking he had no idea it was National Grilled Cheese Month, otherwise he might have written something very different. It is still cold here in Maine. There is still snow on the ground. Yesterday it was gray and rainy, a day just begging for comfort food, a day that demanded Grilled Cheese.
I decided to pull out all the stops. My friend, Brian, has been begging for matzo ball soup and I’ve been jonesing for an amazing Giada De Laurentiis recipe for a Spinach and Pancetta Grilled Cheese I saw her make on the Food Network a while ago.
When I thought of making matzo balls I remembered a show I saw on Sunday – again on the Food Network – called Meat and Potatoes. There was a segment featuring Chef Ilan Hall making Bacon Wrapped Matzo Balls. I knew then and there I would have to try them. This damp, dreary day was the perfect opportunity to indulge in a bite or two of wretched food excess.
I made my matzo balls as I always do – from a *gasp* mix. I’ll admit here, in front of God and food lovers everywhere, that I love Manischewitz Matzo Ball Mix, which I used for this latest endeavor. I’m not sure if they’d be happy to see their beloved product wrapped in pork, but I take full responsibility for my actions.
Light, tender floating matzo balls are only a couple of eggs, a little oil and 20 minutes away.
Tiny – 1 inch – matzo soldiers ready for duty.
Everybody in the pool!
When you put ‘em in hot water, balls get a whole lot bigger!
I always have frozen, home made chicken soup on hand, for culinary as well as medicinal purposes.
Half the balls go into the soup.
The others are blanketed in thin rounds of pancetta or wrapped lovingly in applewood smoked, nitrate free bacon.
I am not going to lie, these were as delicious as anything I’ve tasted in a long time.
Brian arrives with the makeshift panini press. Ever my faithful food-testing guinea pig, he works for food.
Give that guinea pig a cup of soup while he waits for the Grilled Cheese.
And now for Giada’s amazing Pancetta and Spinach Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. I cut her recipe for eight sandwiches in half. To start I took 4 oz of thinly sliced pancetta arranged on a greased baking sheet and cooked in a 400º oven, baking them until they were crispy, about 10 minutes.
Giada likes to crumble her slices, but I love the crisp little rounds just as they are.
Into the food processor I put a cup of grated Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (Seriously Sharp Cheddar would work equally well), a cup of Cabot Monterey Jack cheese, half a stick of Cabot Unsalted Butter at room temperture and a tablespoon of vegetable oil and gave it a good pulse or two until blended into a spreadable state. Giada adds salt to her mixture, but I find the cheese and the pancetta offer just the right amount of saltiness.
Next, I added a cup of chopped fresh baby spinach and processed until just incorporated.
I had a rosemary and olive oil boule which I sliced to about 1/2 an inch, and built my sammies with a thin, thin smear of butter on the outside.
Since I don’t have a panini press, or even a George Foreman grill, I wrapped Brian’s bricks in aluminum foil. And, since he had pulled them out of a snow bank and were still icy to the touch, I let them rest in a warm oven until we were ready to cook.
Brian and I had a cup of soup and tasted the Bacon & Pancetta Wrapped Matzo Balls, which were incredibly rich and delicious. The ones wrapped in pancetta were a bit lighter, due to how thin the slices were. Oy…heaven!
I cooked the sandwiches in a skillet under the bricks over a medium heat until they were golden, turned them and cooked the other side.
The nutty, sophisticated flavor of the Clothbound Cheddar was complimented by the creaminess of the Monterey Jack, and the spinach gave it an added earthy taste. The crispy pancetta was a perfect foil for the melted cheese and the hint of rosemary in the bread added a quiet but noticeable herbal note to the proceedings.
This sophisticated sandwich and unorthodox appetizer were the perfect components for my National Grilled Cheese Month celebration. L’chaim!