Gluten-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies with Ganache and Truffles

Looming in a few days hence, was a house party and we were tasked with bringing dessert. With much success in the past, I thought I’d give the Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie recipe, another whirl. You may recall I’ve made them almost a year ago for Seder because they are flourless; and for a girl’s weekend away in NYC.

My over-the-top addition at that time was a smattering of Reese’s pieces and mini peanut butter cups as a final flourish, not only for color, but because who doesn’t like more peanut butter and chocolate?? This time my topping was cocoa dusted dark chocolate truffles (such as those from Trader Joe’s) for a sophisticated approach. Another change was using the recommended bittersweet chocolate for the ganache as opposed to the dark chocolate I chose before.

Made without flour, this easy brownie recipe yields the most decadent, fudgy, rich, and chewy brownie imaginable. And if that’s not enough, that top layer of ganache and truffles take them over the top and ensures triumph over the strongest of chocolate cravings. Plus, these from-scratch brownies are naturally gluten-free and don’t even require a mixer.

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Rule #1 with brownies: The baking time is an estimate, you really do need to watch your brownies closely to get the perfect brownie. You should rely on a toothpick. And unlike cake, you’re not looking for a clean toothpick when you pull it out. You want moist crumbs stuck all over that toothpick. Start checking on the edges of the pan. It cooks faster there and if you don’t pull the brownies out soon enough, you’ll have dry edges. NOT COOL. (Ours took the entire 37 minutes.)

The peanut butter is an important part of this recipe and it helps to really cut the overall richness and sweetness. Best to use a natural creamy peanut butter with a low sugar content, at 2 grams or less, such as Justins.

For that party, we had every intention of bringing a half gallon of good vanilla ice cream to pair with the brownies figuring it would make a nice counterpart to the rich chocolate. Alas, we forgot. But eagle-eyed Julia spotted the carton in the freezer and she quickly decided she would have them both for dessert that evening. (Yes, we did bring some leftovers home from the party.)

The next morning she informed me that she nuked the brownie for about 15 seconds to just soften the ganache/truffle topping, and waxed poetic over how the ice cream was a perfect partner and actually helped cut back on all that richness. It kind of defies logic that adding more sweetness tones down the richness, doesn’t it?? Enjoy…

Gluten-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies with Ganache and Truffles

  • Servings: 25 squares
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

Peanut Butter Filling

  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg room temperature

Brownies

  • 12 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter cut into small cubes
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Gancahe

  • 10 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 7 oz. cocoa dusted dark chocolate truffles, roughly chopped (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Lightly spray an 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper leaving an overhang for easy removal. Set aside.

Peanut Butter Filling

  1. In a medium bowl, combine peanut butter, sugar, and egg. Mix until throughly combined. Set aside.

Brownies

  1. In a large bowl, combine chocolate chips and butter. Melt in 30-second increments, on high heat in the microwave, stirring in between.
    Stir in sugar and vanilla until completely combined.
  2. Add eggs one a time, stirring in between until combined.
    In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt.
  3. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir vigorously until the mixture is smooth and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. This will take one or two minutes.
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  4. Stir in the mini chocolate chips.
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  5. Pour two-thirds of the brownie batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  6. Drop small spoonfuls of the peanut butter mixture on top of the brownie batter. (I flattened the spoonfuls in my hands for a more even coverage.)
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  7. Spoon on remaining brownie batter and smooth with the back of a spoon or offset spatula. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
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  8. Bake for 33-37 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. (Watch the brownies closely after 30 minutes. Don’t rely on the time so much as the inserted toothpick.)
  9. Let brownies cool completely on a cooling rack or in the fridge. (This could take up to 2 hours on the counter.)
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Ganache

  1. Place bittersweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. (The smaller you make the chunks, the quicker it will melt with the cream.)
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    Since the two Ghirardelli bars only weighed 8 ounces, I added 2 more ounces of bittersweet chocolate.
  2. Heat whipping cream until scalding hot and pour over the top of the chocolate.
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  3. Let sit for 5 minutes and then stir until smooth. (If chocolate hasn’t melted all the way, heat on high heat in 15 second intervals in the microwave, stirring in between, until chocolate is fully melted.)
  4. Pour mixture over the top of the cooled brownies and use an offset spatula to spread over the top until smooth.
    Scatter the truffle chunks over the ganache. Refrigerate until the ganache has completely set up.
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  5. Use the parchment paper overhang to pull the brownies out and cut into squares.
  6. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Recipe adapted from one on momontimeout.com

Red Curry with Pork and Watercress

Remember the Red Curry Paste we made from scratch the other day? Well this Red Curry with Pork and Watercress recipe came from the same Fine Cooking Magazine (FC) article, and the reason we made the paste in the first place. OK, it was also to break in Hubby’s Christmas present from his sister Dee—the solid granite mortar and pestle hand carved from Thailand.

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According to the magazine article, you won’t find this curry in many Thai restaurants in the States, but it’s a popular choice among Bangkok residents. The sauce is thick and velvety thanks to a generous amount of coconut milk, which imparts sweetness. Its sweet profile is balanced by the mellow heat from the curry paste and sourness from the lime.

FC suggests, if you’re able to find it, using morning glory in place of the watercress, apparently it’s more authentically Thai. However, other than growing morning glory in my garden, I’ve never heard of eating it. Have you? It may seem like a lot of greens initially, but just like spinach, it wilts down considerably.

For a leaner option, swap pork butt for the pork belly (which we did). Serve the curry on generous helpings of steamed jasmine rice. Of course, if you don’t have the where-with-all to make homemade red curry paste, use a jarred version, it just won’t be quite as spectacular. We made the red curry paste two days in advance which saved loads of time.

The recipe only called for 1 pound of pork, which seemed very meager. Our package was about 1/3 more and even that was a stretch. I suggest using at least 1 1/2 pounds of meat, especially is you are serving four people.

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Red Curry with Pork and Watercress

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. coconut or vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. pork belly (or butt), skin removed, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup Red Curry Paste
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 7 oz. watercress or morning glory, cut into 3-inch pieces (4 cups chopped)
  • 3 Tbs. tamarind concentrate or apple-cider vinegar; more to taste
  • 2 Tbs. fish sauce; more to taste
  • 2 Tbs. palm or brown sugar; more to taste
  • 1 kaffir lime, halved; or 3 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
  • Lime wedges, for serving
  • Steamed basmati rice made with homemade broth

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. (Coconut oil comes in a solid state as opposed to liquid like most oils.)
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  2. Sear the pork on all sides until browned. Transfer the pork to a plate. Discard all but 2 Tbs. of the oil from the pan.
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  3. Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the curry paste, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. The paste will spatter, so use a lid or splatter guard.
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  4. Add the coconut milk and pork with its juices; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, slightly covered, until the meat is tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Add water to ensure that the pork remains submerged.
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  5. Once the pork is tender, add the watercress, tamarind, fish sauce, sugar, and lime. Return to a boil. Season to taste with more sugar, tamarind, and fish sauce.
  6. Turn off the heat, and let stand for 30 minutes to let the lime infuse the curry.
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  7. Meanwhile, make rice according to package directions, steamed with homemade chicken stock instead of water, if possible.
  8. Remove and discard the lime for the curry, and then serve it over steamed rice.
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe by Perry Santanachote found in Fine Cooking Magazine

Hearty Spanish-Style Lentil and Chorizo Soup with Kale

When Winter is in full swing with blustery temperatures, it tempts one to hunker down and nest by a cozy fire with a cup of tea. Another option is to dine on this Hearty Spanish-Style Lentil and Chorizo Soup with Kale and be instantly warmed and satisfied.

Some reviewers thought 1 1/2 pounds was too much chorizo, so they cut back to 1 pound, sounds reasonable right? Not in this household. I’m not even sure there is such a thing as “too much chorizo” according to my husband. We increased to 2 pounds! (Although afterward, he acquiesced and said 1 pound would probably have been enough.)

And for another punch of meaty flavor, Hubby also incorporated a chopped, small-but-thick, piece of Jamón Serrano. The other change in elevating flavors was using our homemade ham stock. WOW, now that was a game changer! With all of that extra meat, he added another cup of water to the ham stock, making a total of 8 cups of liquid.

IMG_3233For a flavor boost, Russ decided to add some Jamón Serrano (shown above, lower right) while prepping the aromatics.

To ensure creamy, well-seasoned lentils with intact skins, soak them in a warm brine for 30 minutes before cooking. For a rich, vegetal flavor, sweat onion, carrot, and parsley in a covered pot to provide a background taste to the main ingredients: heady smoked paprika, meaty chorizo, earthy lentils, and tart sherry vinegar. For a finish, garnish it with an Indian preparation called a tarka, a mixture of spices and aromatics bloomed in oil.

Not to beat a dead horse, but you know by now we are not fans of curly kale, so we almost always use lacinato, or dinosaur kale in its place. They are both prepped the same way, so it’s up to you which variety you care to include.

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“We prefer French green lentils, or lentilles du Puy, for this recipe, but it will work with any type of lentil except red or yellow. Grate the onion on the large holes of a box grater. If Spanish-style chorizo is not available, kielbasa sausage can be used. Red wine vinegar can be substituted for the sherry vinegar. Smoked paprika comes in three varieties: sweet (dulce), bittersweet or medium hot (agridulce), and hot (picante). For this recipe, we prefer the sweet kind.”     —Cook’s Illustrated

TIP: Make sure to buy the Spanish cooking chorizo which is soft and uncured as opposed to the cured, hard Spanish chorizo.

Hearty Spanish-Style Lentil and Chorizo Soup with Kale

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 pound (2 1/4 cups) lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds Spanish-style cooking chorizo sausage, pricked with fork several times
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 7 cups water, plus extra as needed (we used homemade ham stock)
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus extra for seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 12 ounces kale, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. Place lentils and 2 teaspoons salt in heatproof container. Cover with 4 cups boiling water and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, finely chop three-quarters of onion (you should have about 1 cup) and grate remaining quarter (you should have about 3 tablespoons).
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add chorizo and cook until browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer chorizo to large plate.
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  4. Reduce heat to low and add chopped onion, carrots, 1 tablespoon parsley, and 1 teaspoon salt. (A chopped thick piece of Jamón Serrano was added with the carrots for another addition of flavor.) Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft but not brown, 25 to 30 minutes. If vegetables begin to brown, add 1 tablespoon water to pot.
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  5. Add lentils and sherry vinegar to vegetables; increase heat to medium-high; and cook, stirring frequently, until vinegar starts to evaporate, 3 to 4 minutes.
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  6. Add 7 cups water (or ham stock), chorizo, bay leaves, and cloves; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in kale, cover, and continue to cook until lentils are tender, about 15 minutes longer.
  7. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add paprika, grated onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute longer.
  8. Remove chorizo and bay leaves from lentils. Stir paprika mixture into lentils and continue to cook until flavors have blended and soup has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. When chorizo is cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half into ¼-inch-thick slices. Return chorizo to soup along with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and heat through, about 1 minute.
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  10. Season with salt, pepper, and up to 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar to taste, and serve. (Soup can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

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http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe found on CooksIllustrated.com

A Decadent Dinner for Your Date

You’ll impress not only your significant other, but yourself as well when you make this Steak Tips with Mushrooms and Blue Cheese recipe. Even though it’s a weekend and/or special occasion, you may still want quick and easy. To make the decadent meal even faster, you could pair it with frozen steak fries instead of homemade.

The savory combination of mushrooms and blue cheese can’t be beat when added to tender steak tips. Now what are steak tips? Also known as flap meat, they can be sold as whole steaks, cubes, or strips. How convenient, we just happened to have a bag of four flap meat strips in the freezer!

To ensure a substantial crust, get the pan very hot before adding the meat. Cooking steaks in a pan that isn’t properly preheated leads to meat that overcooks before developing a good crust. To build layers of flavor prepare the sauce in the same pan in which you cooked steaks. The browned bits left behind—known as fond—add valuable flavor to the sauce.

To ensure that most of the meat would end up medium-rare, we decided not to cut the strips into 2″ pieces, until after it was cooked and plated. Whisking half of the blue cheese into the sauce adds richness to the dinner and ensures that each bite is packed with blue cheese flavor. I was sooo excited to eat, I totally forgot to add the chopped chive garnish.

Our veggie side was char-roasted broccoli rabe. Don’t be alarmed that the leaves almost blacken, they taste great! To prepare, rinse, then chop off the bottom inch or two, and toss the remaining stalks with 2 tablespoons of peanut oil (which has a high smoke point), salt, pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast along with the potato wedges in a 450° oven for 15 minutes. (The potatoes take about 35 minutes.)

This wold be a great Valentine’s Day dinner for the meat lover(s) in your family.

Steak Tips with Mushrooms, Blue Cheese and Steak Fries

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

STEAKS

  • 1 ½ lbs sirloin steak tips, cut into 2-inch pieces (we left our strips whole)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 large, meaty portobello mushroom caps, halved and sliced thin
  • 2 shallots, halved and sliced thin
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh chives, more for potatoes if desired

STEAK FRIES

  • 2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2″ wedges
  • 2 Tbs. peanut or grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt + 1/4 tsp. pepper

Directions

  1. Pat steak tips (or strips) dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.
  2. Add steak tips and cook until well browned all over, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to serving platter and tent with foil.
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  3. Add remaining oil, mushrooms, and ½ teaspoon salt to empty skillet. Cover and cook over medium heat until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Add shallots and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, cream, and any accumulated beef juices and simmer, scraping up any browned bits, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Off heat, whisk in ¼ cup cheese. Pour sauce over meat and sprinkle with remaining cheese and chives. Serve.
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Cooking Fries:

  1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 450°F.
  2. Toss the potato wedges on a large rimmed, parchment-lined, baking sheet with the oil, salt and pepper, arranging in a single layer.
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  3. Roast until the potatoes begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Turn with a spatula, continue roasting until browned and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes more.
  4. Divide amongst serving plates and sprinkle with chopped chives, if desired.
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe found online at Cook’s Country

Sear-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Garlic and Fennel

Relatively quick, moist, and savory, this Sear-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Garlic and Fennel recipe delivers in spades. And pair it with the Kale Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette (shown below), and you’ve got yourself a healthy, low-carb, low-fat, highly flavorful dinner.

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Fennel is a classic flavoring for pork because it brings out the sweetness of the meat. That, along with a decent punch of garlic and some chopped fresh herbs, you’ve got yourself a tasty bite of “the other white meat.”

This recipe is straightforward, but you can make it simpler by skipping the browning step. Instead, roll the raw tenderloin in the garlic mixture and roast for about 30 minutes. Although, we prefer to brown the meat and enjoy the extra depth of flavor from searing the exterior.

Sear-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Garlic and Fennel

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 tsp. fennel pollen or ground fennel seed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil; more as needed
  • 2 pork tenderloins (2 to 2-1/2 lb. total)
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then set a large wire rack on the sheet.
  2. Combine the garlic, sage, thyme, fennel, 2 tsp. salt, and 2 tsp. pepper in a small bowl (or right on the cutting board).
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  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes. (You may need to sear the tenderloins separately, depending on pan size.) Transfer to the rack on the baking sheet and let stand until cool enough to handle.
  4. Meanwhile, spread half of the garlic-fennel mixture on a cutting board. Roll one of the tenderloins in the mixture (it won’t cover the pork completely), then return it to the rack on the baking sheet.
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  5. Repeat with the rest of the garlic-fennel mixture and the other tenderloin. Scrape any remaining mixture from the board over the tenderloins, and press gently to adhere.
  6. Roast until the pork registers 130°F to 135°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 15 minutes. (Our 2 tenderloins weighed almost 3 1/2 lbs and took 30 minutes to register 130°.)
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  7. Transfer to the cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 to 7 minutes. Slice and serve, sprinkled with the parsley, if you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

Recipe by meat author Bruce Aidells

The Mother Paste

Let me just say, be prepared to pound for about 40 minutes total. I know, starting with a negative is, well negative, but the end result is so worth it (plus, it was my husband who did all the pounding 🙂 ) Why? Just as béchamel is to French sauces, this fundamental Red Curry Paste (Prik Gaeng Kua) is the “mother” paste for almost all other Thai curries, so says the Fine Cooking article which highlighted this one from chef Perry Santanachote—a food stylist, recipe developer and writer.

According to Perry, in Thai, curry paste ingredients are called khreung gaeng, which translates to “the engine of the curry.” Comparing khreung gaeng prepared with a mortar and pestle to ones prepared with a food processor is like pitting a Bugatti against a Buick. They’ll both get you where you want to go, but one will provide a much more exhilarating experience.

The Hubs received his hand-carved, solid granite mortar and pestle as a Christmas gift from his sister Dee, but hadn’t used it until now. And just like any new utensil, it needed to be cleaned and seasoned before using. The steps for so doing are as follows:

  1. Wash in clean water without detergent and air dry.
  2. Grind roughly a small handful of uncooked white rice. Discard and repeat if necessary until the rice remains white and does not discolor.
  3. Add 4 cloves of raw garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper corns. Grind into a paste and discard.
  4. Again, wash in clean water without detergent and air dry.

Here, Russ begins the process of cleaning his set.

Notes for Making Curry Paste:

  • *Use chiles such as Mexican guajillo, puya, New Mexico, Anaheim, or California that are fragrant but not overly spicy.
  • Driest and/or hardest ingredients go in first, followed by ingredients with more moisture. Always leave the shrimp paste for last.
  • Use the curry paste immediately or store it in an airtight container covered with a thin layer of oil for up to one month in the refrigerator, or 3 months in the freezer.
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A few comments about our ingredients. We could not locate kaffir limes, even at the Asian Mart. But we had some leaves in the freezer so we used those—although I would have preferred the lime zest. Then we forgot to look for fresh galangal, but had the powdered spice, so we found, and used, the conversion rate (4 1/2 teaspoons equalled 1/4 cup fresh galangal). As for the chiles, we had dried guajillos on hand, so that was perfect.

It was a real workout for Russ’s arms, but we were both excited to use the “mother” paste in an upcoming Thai Curry recipe. Stay tuned… In the meantime, I need to source where we can obtain fresh Kaffir limes. One such option is Importfood.com.

kaffir limes

“Kaffir lime peel is loaded with a fragrant citrus oil, but the flavor of the fruit is overwhelming if eaten fresh. The kaffir lime tree is grown and harvested mainly for the leaves which are a staple in Thai cooking, but the tree doesn’t produce many of these limes. As kaffir limes aren’t eaten fresh, and there’s limited use for them, growers typically strip the trees of all fruit each year to promote growth of the leaves. The fruit not only looks excellent but the culinary appeal is perfect: fragrant, strong citrus flavor. Put a slice of the bitter peel in your mouth and your lips get a tingling sensation of citrus unlike anything you’ve tasted.”

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Kale Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

  • Servings: Yields about 1 cup
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

  • 1 oz. dried red spur chiles or other dried chiles*
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh lemongrass
  • 3 Tbs. minced galangal
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic (from about 8 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot (from 1 medium shallot)
  • 3 Tbs. minced fresh cilantro stems
  • 1 Tbs. kaffir lime zest (from about 2 small limes) or very thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 Tbs. shrimp paste
  • Coconut oil (optional)

Directions

  1. Remove the stems from the chiles. Shake out and discard the seeds. Break the chiles into pieces, and soak them in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes to soften.
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  2. Meanwhile, in a heavy-duty mortar and pestle, pound the lemongrass and galangal until ground to a coarse paste, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Drain the chiles, and finely dice them. Add to the mortar in batches, sprinkling the salt over them after adding each batch. Pound until the mixture is fine and the oils are fully released from the chiles, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, shallot, cilantro stems, and zest, and pound until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated into a smooth paste, about 20 minutes. You’re looking for a buttery consistency with no chunks, almost like tomato paste.
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  5. Add the shrimp paste. It will almost melt into the curry paste as you spread it around.
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

By Perry Santanachote found in Fine Cooking Magazine

Power Salad

More POWER to you. Kale may be one of those greens that you love to hate; or, you are definitely on board with it. Either way, I’ll bet you’re going to enjoy this Kale Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette found on FineCooking.com. At the very least, you’ll feel a tad healthier after consuming all of the good-for-you ingredients.

Our dinner guest that evening, step-daughter Julia, was not even a fruit fan, especially cranberries, but she adored the dressing. And while the cranberries get chopped up in a food processor, admittedly any of the larger chunks she pushed aside. But she surprised even herself with finishing her portion.

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Speaking of cranberries, the supermarket was out of fresh, so I bought a packet of organic frozen (without sugar), and let them thaw about 30 minutes before chopping in the food processor. Cranberries are considered to be a superfood due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content.

In fact, I’m sure you’ve heard, research has linked the nutrients in cranberries to a lower risk of urinary tract infections, the prevention of certain types of cancer, improved immune function, and decreased blood pressure. Who’s not on board now?

The homemade vinaigrette softens the raw kale leaves, so it’s essential to let this salad sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. The longer it sits, the more tender the kale will become. (Ours was coated with dressing for an hour before eating.) We often find curly kale to be tough and bitter, so we usually substitute the lacinato variety, as we did here.

Without any cranberry juice on hand, and with only needing 1 tablespoon, I wasn’t about to run out to the store, so instead, I substituted 1 tablespoon of orange juice. Plus, after cutting down the orange sections, I put them in a small bowl until ready to assemble the salad. The accumulate juices added another component of flavor.

To make a full meal of it, add shredded rotisserie chicken, or nuts such as almonds or walnuts to keep it vegetarian.

Kale Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) cranberries
  • 1 large navel orange
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. cranberry (or orange) juice
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. peeled fresh ginger, finely grated on the small holes of a box grater
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 oz. lacinato (dinosaur) kale leaves, trimmed and coarsely chopped, or baby kale (5 cups)

Directions

  1. Using a sharp paring knife, cut off the ends of the orange to expose a circle of flesh. Stand the orange on an end and pare off the peel and pith in strips. Quarter the orange lengthwise; slice each quarter crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick pieces.
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  2. Pulse the cranberries in a mini or regular food processor until finely chopped, about fifteen 1-second pulses. Set aside.
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  3. Whisk together the vinegar, cranberry (or orange) juice, and honey in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Whisk in the ginger and chopped cranberries and season to taste with salt and pepper.
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  4. Toss the kale and the orange pieces, with their juices, in the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let sit for 15 minutes to 1 hour before serving.
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe by Maryellen Driscoll of Fine Cooking

A Threesome Anyone?

Serve this Spice-Crusted Salmon with the accompanying Sautéed Sugar Snap Peas and the Green Chile Cheese Rice and you’ve hit the trifecta. The recipes are super simple and make an absolutely delicious threesome! An added bonus: The salmon and rice dish both cook at the identical 450° temperature for about the same amount of time.

IMG_3134Sauté a pound of trimmed sugar snaps in some olive oil and chopped garlic for 5-7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with a chiffonade of fresh mint leaves and serve.

The salmon crust is made from spice seeds, but if you have to substitute an already ground spice (like I did for the coriander), that’s OK too. I highly suggest using an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the fish. The center of ours was still on the rarer side after 30 minutes, when the original recipe indicated it would take only 16-18 minutes.

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The Green Chile Cheese Rice was a throw together recipe cobbled together from something I saw posted on Facebook. It is REALLY good and somewhat flexible in the ingredient amounts. A time-saver if you cook the rice earlier in the day (or the day before), that’s one less step you have to do at dinner time.

Spice-Crusted Salmon

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbs. sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbs. coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbs. cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbs. fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more for oiling the salmon
  • One 2-1/2 lb. skin-on salmon fillet
  • Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450ºF.
  2. Combine the ginger, sesame seeds, coriander, cumin, fennel, red pepper flakes, and garlic in a food processor and process until the mixture is finely chopped, about 30 seconds.
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  3. With the motor running, drizzle the oil through the feed tube and process, stopping to scrape down the sides, until the mixture forms a paste, about 20 seconds.
  4. Rub oil on the salmon skin, and put the salmon, skin side down, on a rack set on a rimmed baking sheet.
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  5. Sprinkle 2 tsp. salt evenly over the salmon. Using your hands, spread the spice paste onto the salmon.
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  6. Roast until the salmon is cooked to your liking, 16 to 18 minutes for medium-rare. Our thick piece took 30 minutes for medium on the ends, rarer in the center.
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  7. Slice into 6 thin fillets and arrange on a platter. (Yeah, I know, I only made 5 fillets.)
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

Recipe by Julie Grimes Bottcher from Fine Cooking

Green Chile Cheese Rice

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Green Chile Cheese Rice

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked basmati rice, cooled (make up to a day ahead)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • 4 oz. can chopped green chiles, drained
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, more or less to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. butter softened, more for topping
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°.
  2. Cook the rice according to package directions to equal 4 cups. Let cool at room temperature and use right away, or store in a sealed container in the refgerator until ready to use.
  3. With the softened butter, grease a 13″ x 9″ casserole dish on the bottom and sides, Lightly sprinkle some of the grated parm on the bottom.
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  4. In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked rice, and all of the other ingredients (except the remaining parm), and stir fully incorporate. Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle on remaining grated cheese and dot with butter.
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  5. Place dish into preheated oven and cook for 20-25 minutes until it starts getting a light brown crust on the edges. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

Hakka Whadda?

Hakka-Style Stir-Fried Shrimp and Vegetables is such a simple dish, and is symbolic of the Hakka people, “the gypsies of China.” Come to find out, these folks have a marked cuisine and style of Chinese cooking which is little known outside the Hakka home. It concentrates on the texture of food—the hallmark of their eats. Pragmatic and simple, the fare is garnished lightly with sparse or little flavoring. If only we had realized that beforehand…

“Hakka” was new culinary terminology to us. Found in Grace Young’s Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge” it caught our interest, so we bought all of the necessary ingredients but neglected to read through the directions. Had we done so, we would have known there was very little spice other than garlic, or anything to make a sauce, resulting in a dish too dry to serve over rice—at least in our humble opinions.

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Chok full of vegetables (this appealed to us), and according to Grace, only a modest amount of shrimp by Western standards—a half pound. We doubled it to one pound of shrimp, and recommend that you do too.

The chopped garlic is first stir-fried in oil, and then the carrots and shrimp are added. Next you toss in the sliced Napa cabbage, stir-fry it for a short time, and then incorporate the broccoli and cauliflower. Salt, pepper, and carrot go in next, covering to cook for a bit. Finally, you add the cornstarch and a bit of carrot water and stir-fry until the shrimp is cooked through.

Now about the sauce dilemma. In a search through our pantry, I came across three flavoring packets from Saffron Road. The one that seemed to fit the occasion best was the Korean Stir-Fry Simmer Sauce. We always try to keep some prepackaged mixtures on hand which come in handy when you have little time to prepare anything from scratch.

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Slicing the napa cabbage cross-wise into 1-inch pieces.

Hakka-Style Stir-Fried Shrimp and Vegetables

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 C thinly sliced carrots
  • 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled, deveined, and patted dry
  • 2 C Napa cabbage, cut crosswise into 1-inch wide pieces
  • 1 1/2 C small bite-size broccoli florets
  • 1 1/2 C small bite-size cauliflower florets
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
  • Prepared Asian sauce

IMG_6854When real hot, stir in the oil, add all of the garlic, and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the carrots stir-frying for one minute until the garlic just starts to turn brown.

IMG_6862After the shrimp and cabbage, add broccoli and cauliflower and stir-fry for about 1 minute, until broccoli begins to turn bright green.

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We heated up a packaged stir-fry mix from Saffron Road for more flavor and a wetter consistency.

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Directions

  1. Soak the carrots in about one cup ice cold water for one hour.
  2. In a small bowl combine 1 tbsp. of the carrot soaking water with the cornstarch.
  3. In another small bowl measure 1/3 cup of the carrot water. Drain the carrots, shaking out any excess water.
  4. Heat wok over high heat. When real hot, stir in the oil, add all of the garlic, and stir-fry for 20 seconds until fragrant.
  5. Add the carrots stir-frying for one minute until the garlic just starts to turn brown.
  6. Add shrimp, stir-fry for 30 seconds. Next add cabbage, stir-fry until it starts to wilt, about 30 seconds.
  7. Add broccoli and cauliflower and stir-fry for about 1 minute, until broccoli begins to turn bright green.
  8. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper, swirl in the reserved 1/3 cup carrot water, and stir-fry until just combined.
  9. Cover and cook 30-60 seconds. Uncover, restir the cornstarch mixture, swirl into wok, and stir-fry 30 seconds.
  10. If you are adding a sauce, remove all ingredients to a bowl. Pour your sauce mixture into the hot wok and swirl for a minute or so, add back the other ingredients, and stir until combined. Serve over rice.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from Grace Young’s cookbook “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge”

Sautéed Tuna Patties at their BEST

Sautéed Tuna Patties. Not something I think to make often, but they can be a real treat anytime of year, and take practically no time to prepare. This recipe serves anywhere from 3 to 4 servings because it makes five tuna patties. Depending on one’s appetite, one pattie may be enough, as was the case for me, especially with a few sides. Others may scarf down two of them at one sitting, so you’ll have to use your own judgement as to how many it will feed.

I can’t stress enough to use really good tuna packed in oil. The brand I had on hand was imported from Spain and each jar was only 5 ounces, so I needed three of them. My recipe incorporates less bread crumbs than most because I like the taste of the tuna to shine and not be overwhelmed by other ingredients.

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A bit of Dijon mustard amps up the flavor just enough without overpowering. You can always serve more on the side for those wanting a spicier punch. Another condiment idea would be a mix of mayonnaise and mustard. Of course, there are the ketchup lovers. And if you’re serving french fries along side, then ketchup would make sense too.

Because I had an evening class and had to leave the house before The Hubster got home from work, I used a smaller non-stick skillet and sautéed only two patties. When he got home, he then cooked the remaining three patties, and any leftovers were consumed the next day for lunch. Later that night after I got home, My Man exclaimed that the tuna patties were the BEST he ever had. I concur.

Time Saver: cook all five patties in a very large nonstick skillet so that you don’t have to do two batches.

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Sautéed Tuna Patties

  • Servings: Yields 5 patties
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 level Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 Tbsp. bread crumbs
  • 15 ounce jarred tuna in oil, drained (you may need to buy 2 or 3 jars)
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Drain the tuna in a fine mesh strainer over a small bowl. Reserve the oil for another use.
  2. Beat eggs, mustard and lemon juice in a bowl; stir in Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs to make a loose paste. Fold in tuna and shallot until well-mixed. Season with black pepper and a pinch of salt.
    Shape tuna mixture into five, 3 1/4″ wide x 3/4″-thick patties.
  3. Heat half the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat; fry 3 patties until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side.
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  4. Remove to a serving platter and cover with foil. Repeat with remaining oil and tuna patties. (If you have a large enough skillet, sauté all 5 patties at once and save some time.)
  5. Serve immediately with your choice of sides and condiments.
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

Butter-Basted Spiced Cod with Polenta

Our Monday dinner menu often includes a fish dish or something vegetarian. So Fine Cooking’s “Make It Tonight” Series came through again with this Butter-Basted Spiced Cod with Polenta by Ronne Day.

Baking cod in melted butter adds a richness to the fish that nicely balances the heat from the harissa, a yummy North African paste made of ground dried chile peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices. In the past, I’ve made harissa from scratch but no longer had any on hand, so to save a little time, I picked up a jarred version at the supermarket when buying the fresh cod.

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Don’t nix making this recipe because you think you’ll never use harissa again—which comes in mild or spicy. Other uses for the condiment include stirring into couscous, stews, soups and pastas. You’ll find it packaged in cans, tubes and jars at well-stocked grocery stores and specialty markets.

A 2-pound piece of cod at 32 ounces was a bit more than the recipe called for, but I cut it down into 5 sections, giving me some leftovers for lunch the next day. As far as the other ingredients, I kept those amounts the same. Next time however, I may cut back the butter to 4 tablespoons as opposed to 6, and increase the amount of harissa.

Overall, it’s a very tasty dish and seems luxurious when the butter sauce is spooned over the cod and polenta. Fresh chopped cilantro or parsley add a welcome pop of green.

Butter-Basted Spiced Cod with Polenta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 tsp. crushed whole coriander seeds or ground coriander
  • 2 medium lemons, 1 finely grated to yield 1/2 tsp. zest and squeezed for 2 Tbs. juice, the other cut into wedges
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 4 6-oz. pieces cod loin
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. harissa paste
  • 2 tsp. coarsely chopped cilantro or parsley

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Heat a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the coriander and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add 3 cups of water, the lemon zest, and 1 tsp. salt; turn the heat up to medium high.
  4. Whisk in the cornmeal and cook, stirring often, until thick and creamy, about 20 minutes. (If the polenta gets too thick, loosen with a little hot water.)
  5. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper and arrange in a 9×13 baking dish with space between each piece.
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  6. Remove the butter from the heat, stir in the harissa and lemon juice, and pour it over the fish.
  7. Bake, basting every 5 minutes or so, until cooked through (the fish will flake easily), about 15 minutes. If necessary, cover with foil to keep warm.
  8. Divide the polenta among 4 shallow bowls or plates. Top with the fish and spoon the butter over the fish.
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  9. Top with the cilantro or parsley and serve with the lemon wedges.
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

Lemon-Garlic Stuffed Roast Chicken with Silken Gravy

When you’re craving comfort food, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a flavorful roast chicken with silken gravy. So, after being on the road for a couple of weeks recently while dining on some scrumptious fare, we were salivating for our first home-cooked meal and immediately thought of a roast chicken, garlicky mashed potatoes with gravy and some sort of cool-weather roasted veggie.

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Introducing our Lemon-Garlic Stuffed Roast Chicken with Silken Gravy. To start, get yourself a good-sized 5-to-6 pound whole chicken, preferably organic. Gather a lemon, several stalks of a variety of fresh herbs, and a whole head of garlic (more for the spuds). When rubbing the butter mixture under the skin, try not to tear it, but if you do (we did, as you can see in the photo), don’t worry, it will still end up very flavorful and juicy.

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What’s nice about this recipe, other than being quite simple, is none of the herbs get wasted because the unchopped leftovers go into the cavity to perfume the meat and add depth of flavor to the gravy. Don’t get hung up on exact amounts. If for example, you prefer more sage than rosemary, or want to use up some oregano, by all means, switch out or increase/decrease the quantities to address your personal preferences.

A bird this size usually takes about 15 minutes per pound to come to temperature, but because it is pretty tightly stuffed, you need to add another half hour or so to the cooking time. And for consistent browning, remember to rotate the pan 180° every 20 minutes. A chicken is fully cooked when breasts read 160-165°F, and thigh meat is at 170-175°F.

A varietal twist: For an orange-scented chicken, instead of lemon use the zest and fruit of an orange.

Lemon-Garlic Stuffed Roast Chicken with Silken Gravy

  • Servings: 5-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 5-6 lb. whole chicken, preferably organic
  • 4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped, (extra unchopped for the cavity)
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped, (extra unchopped for the cavity)
  • 2 tsp. fresh sage, chopped, (extra unchopped for the cavity)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped, (extra unchopped for the cavity, and more for garnish)
  • 1 large head of garlic, unpeeled and sliced thru the middle horizontally
  • 1 large lemon, zested, then pith removed and quartered
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 qts, chicken stock, preferably homemade, 1/2 set aside
  • 1/4 cup corn starch

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Rinse chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. In a small bowl, make a compound butter mixture with the softened butter, chopped herbs (about 3-4 tablespoons total), the lemon zest, and a small amount of salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Rub all of the butter mixture both under and over the skin, including the underside.
  5. Stuff the cavity with leftover stalks of herbs, the halved garlic head, and quartered lemon pieces. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
  6. Place prepared chicken on a rack in a large rimmed baking sheet, and place into the preheated oven. Rotate the baking sheet every 20 minutes until done. Breasts should read 160-165°F, while thigh meat is done at 170-175°F. Start checking the temperature after 1 1/2 hours. (Our 5 1/2 lb. chicken took 1 hour and 50 minutes before it was done.)
  7. Remove sheet from oven, place entire chicken on a cutting board with a moat and let rest for 15 minutes, twine intact. Juices will begin to accumulate underneath the bird.
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  8. Meanwhile, heat the homemade chicken stock in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, combine the corn starch with the reserved, unheated quarter cup of stock and whisk into a slurry until lumps disappear. Slowly whisk slurry into the boiling stock and keep stirring until thickened. Reduce heat to low and keep gravy at a simmer.
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  9. Drain the pan juice into a defatter, pouring the defatted juices into the gravy mixture, and discard the fat.
  10. Pour a small amount of water onto the baking sheet, scrape the browned bits with a wooden spatula until released, and pour this into the gravy.
  11. Snip the twine away from the legs, and after the bird releases its juices, pour them into the simmering gravy. Stir until combined.
  12. Carve the chicken as you desire, and arrange the pieces on a platter, garnishing with sprigs of parsley and/or rosemary. (BONUS: the leftover carcass can be used to make more stock!)
  13. Serve with your favorite garlicky mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables, along with a boat of the silken gravy.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

White Bean & Chicken Sausage “Stewp”

“Stewp,” a term I coined to describe a marriage of ingredients that resembles both soup, which tends to be more loose, and stew, which generally has a denser consistency. In this case, the stewp is one of those magical recipes with all the usual suspects—carrot, onion, beans, chicken broth—that assuredly exudes a wonderful depth of flavor. And you know my mantra, for more robust taste, always use homemade stock.

A versatile recipe, this stewp can be cooked in any heavy pot or Dutch oven, and on the stovetop, or for that matter in the oven, which is what we did this time around. We typically cook soups on the stovetop in our Le Creuset Dutch oven, but decided instead to substitute a large All Clad pot in the oven.

We were entertaining family members (and a new “granddoggie,” Olive, shown above) and I didn’t want to be distracted with stirring the concoction while on the stovetop. In the oven, it just does its magic and gets all happy without stirring. Although truth-be-told, you don’t have to pay much attention to a good Dutch oven either.

After one hour I did check to see if the beans were soft and creamy, and they were! I let it simmer in the oven for another 30 minutes before I added the vinegar. Time can vary widely depending on the size of beans you use, and how long you soak them.

The Applegate Farms Organic Fire Roasted Red Pepper Sausage is a great choice if you can find it because it lends a slight kick, but use whatever chicken sausage suits your fancy. To make it vegan, Beyond Meat Sausage is the perfect substitute along with a homemade veggie stock. Oh, and I doubled the amount of meat from 6 ounces to 12, as noted in the recipe below. In addition, I included some fresh thyme.

The tantalizing aromas wafted throughout the house, and outdoors as the men folk were out raking leaves. They were more than ready for a taste test once they came inside!

IMG_1593It’s always a good idea to prep all of the ingredients before you start cooking.

White Bean & Chicken Sausage Stewp

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. dried small white beans,
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 12 ounces cooked chicken sausage, such as Applegate Farms Organic Fire Roasted Red Pepper Sausage, diced
  • 2 large stalks celery, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
  • 3 Tbsp. cider vinegar

Directions

  1. The night before you want to cook this soup, soak the beans by placing them in a bowl and covering them completely with cold water.
  2. The next day, heat the oven to 300°F. Heat the olive oil in a large (4-quart or larger) Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage has browned, about 10 minutes.
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  3. Stir in the diced celery, carrots, onion, and garlic and cook over medium heat for another 10 minutes until they are soft. Drain the beans and stir them into the vegetables.
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  4. Pour in the chicken stock and an additional 4 cups water. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a generous quantity of black pepper. Drop in the bay leaves and thyme. Bring the soup to a boil, then cover and put in the oven.
  5. Cook for 2 to 3 hours in the oven, or until the beans are very soft and creamy. (Time can vary widely depending on the size of beans you use.)*
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  6. Stir in the cider vinegar and salt to taste (I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons). Continue cooking for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until the beans have absorbed some of the salt.
  7. Serve with fresh crusty bread. Leftovers freeze well.
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*The soup can also be cooked on the stovetop over low flame. It will need a similar amount of timing for cooking, and should also be cooked with the lid on. Check a little more frequently to make sure the bottom isn’t scorching.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe by Faith Durand from thekitchn.com

German Eats in K-Town

For some crazy notion, I had convinced myself that German cuisine was my least favorite. I’m happy to say, after at least three amazing dinners in Kaiserslautern, otherwise known as K- Town, (the first leg of our most current European vacation), that is so NOT the case.

My youngest sister Kathy (aka Lolly) and her husband Paul, joined us on this adventure because our main purpose was to attend a family wedding. Our niece Colleen, daughter of another sister, was marrying a German guy (even though they reside in Seattle, USA).

OK, enough background, let’s dish about those fabulous meals. It was the 2nd day of Christmas when most businesses and restaurants are closed. Luckily for us, we were forewarned of this situation by the groom’s German parents.

On their wedding website, the couple-to-be posted a few options for the out-of-town guests and highly suggest we make advanced reservations. So a few weeks before we crossed the pond, we made a res at Zur Burg, a well-known steakhouse in the city center.

After being seated in a cozy corner table, we all shook out our dinner napkins, and a Lindt chocolate angel appeared, how special is that? Nice touch Zur Burg, and a good omen indeed.

Because it was still considered Christmas, they had a special menu featuring 3 different full course offerings. Wouldn’t you know, we all chose Menu 2–and we all opted for the garlic-butter topping as opposed to the cream sauce.

It came with a large, beautiful salad, Rumpsteak (their signature steak, which cut like butter and melted in your mouth), and an amazing panna cotta with a raspberry sauce for dessert.

The minor differences were how well you wanted your steak done (2 medium, 2 medium-rare), and which potato (2 fries and 2 croquettes). Granted, it wasn’t really authentic German cuisine per se (although the decor was), but the food was amazing!!

Neither Lolly not I could finish our steaks and the guys were too full to eat anymore, so we sliced down the leftovers, took them with us and left the boxes in our vehicle overnight (it was cold enough out). The next afternoon while sightseeing, we all indulged in the treat.

The real test came the following night when we dined at Spinnradl. Our nephew Desi (below left) and his cousin Sammy Jo joined us for the feast excursion.

Lolly (above left) and I insisted on trying authentic German food this time around and selected one of their house specialties, Spinnradl-Pan with medallions of pork filet au gratin, mushroom gravy over homemade spaetzle—we were transformed!!

Not to be outdone, The Hubster decided on Jagerschnitzel–pork schnitzel with mushrooms, spaetzle and a side salad.

Lolly’s husband Paul ordered the Breaded Pork Schnitzel with Fried Potatoes which also came with a side salad. However, the salad was inadvertently placed in front of Yours Truly, who proceeded to scarf it down until Paul questioned where his salad was. Oops, mea culpa, I’d forgotten my dinner did not come with a side salad (insert sheepish grin here 🙂 )

As for what the other two dining guests ate, I can only show you photos due to my laser-focus on my meal. Alas, once again, neither Lolly nor I could finish our meals, so into doggie bags they went.

Our final dinner in the Kaiserslautern area was at St. Martin (and no, not the island). Located in the heart of old town, it posts a monthly changing specialty menu, along with a pretty extensive regular menu.

Now here’s where I really went rogue. They had some unusual choices such as wild boar, venison, perch and, my choice Goosebreast St. Martin bathing in a roasted apple au jus with chestnuts, cooked red cabbage and potato dumplings. Holy gooseflesh Batman, it was extraordinaire!

As for the rest of them? Well they were just as enamored of their selections because Russ salivated over his Venison Ragout Fürsterin with mushrooms in a juniper jus, served with spaetzle and a field lettuce salad.

And Paul savored every morsel of his Grilled Chicken Breast Hellas with olives, pepperoni, bell peppers, garlic and champignons in a feta cream sauce. While Lolly loved her Grilled Chicken Breast Palestinian Style with champignons mushrooms in a cream sauce.

Definitely a place to put on your “must try” list if ever in Kaiserslautern… Auf Wiedersehen…

Next we headed into France for a few days where, on New Year’s Eve, we dined on a 7-course French feast at Le Bedaine in La Petite France section of Strasbourg…

Vietnamese Tapas?

Papaya is redefining an Asian cuisine with a contemporary flare, fusing Vietnamese with other cuisines for bolder, more experimental dishes that aren’t at the typical Vietnamese restaurants. I can’t tell you how stoked I was to experience this BYO located on Garden Golf Blvd, in North Wales, PA.

“French-inflected, American-influenced, borderless and worldly and weird”
— that’s what chef Patrick Le does at Papaya.

Our dining companions Paula and Mike had patronized the restaurant on numerous previous occasions and graciously told us to order the menu selections, where we zeroed in on the Tapas. Unfortunately, one of the Tapas that I was most excited to try, Banh Mi Xiu Mai consisting of pork meatballs and minced tomato broth (can you mince broth??), was no longer available that evening. BUT, everything we did choose was fantastic!

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String Beans
Garlic & Spicy Peanut Sauce

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Brussels Sprouts
Flash Fried with Pork Belly & Sweet Chili Sauce

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Roasted Duck Tacos
—Corn Tortilla, Cucumber, Scallions & Tangy Hoisin Sauce

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Filet Mignon
Over Watercress Salad

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Dan Dan Noodles
—Minced Pork, Sesame Seeds, Scallions & Spicy Szechuan Sauce

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Crispy Shiitake Mushrooms
Sesame Seeds & Sweet Chili Remoulade

In addition to the Tapas menu, they also have mouth-watering selections under Appetizers, Vegetables, Entrées, Rolls and Sliders, plus Specials that change every two weeks. Although we did not partake, Papaya also serves homemade desserts that change weekly.

With a 30-minute commute from our house, sadly, it’s not exactly in the ‘hood, but it sure is worth the drive. Yes, I want to go back ASAP!