Monthly Archives: October 2015

Best Ground Beef Chili

I make a great chili, if I must say so myself! And Russ says so too. So when we ran across this recipe in Cooks Illustrated Magazine, I felt a competitive urge to test it against my own. Plus, I was also intrigued about how they treated the ground meat with baking soda prior to cooking it. My curiosity got the best of me…


This chili recipe uses 85 percent lean ground beef for richness and flavor, and employs shockingly small amounts of pureed whole canned tomatoes and pinto beans to create a thick, rich dish. To keep the meat moist and tender, it is treated with salt and baking soda. Both ingredients help the meat hold on to moisture, so it doesn’t shed liquid during cooking. This means that 2 pounds of beef can be browned in just one batch. Finally, the homemade chili powder uses a combination of toasted dried ancho chiles, chipotle chiles in adobo, and paprika, along with a blend of herbs and spices to round it out.

And most importantly, the chili needs to simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours to fully tenderize it. Make sure to stir in any fat that collects on the top of the chili before serving since it contains much of the flavor from the fat-soluble spices in the chile powder. Therefore, skimming the bright orange fat from the finished chili will rob it of flavor. For deep, richly spiced complexity, don’t remove the fat—stir it back in.

This goes against my grain, but we decided to follow the recipe, and the results were a deeply fragrant and intensely flavored chili. Personally I like more beans and some veggies such as red, yellow and/or green bell peppers and sliced mushrooms. So perhaps next time’ I’ll add those ingredients to this basic recipe—or not, because this was indeed a very good chili! I’ll just get my veggie quota from a side salad…

NOTES: Because we did not have regular tortilla chips at home and I was too lazy to run out and buy them, I used Red Hot Blues Tortilla Chips in the processed spice mixture, which in the end I think was a better choice anyway. Next time we make this chili, Russ suggested buying a chuck roast and grinding it ourselves… I guess he thinks we have nothing else to do 😉


Best Ground Beef Chili

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: time intensive
  • Print


  • pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
  • plus 2 cups tablespoons water
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • dried ancho chile, stemmed, seeded, and torn into 1-inch pieces
  • ounce tortilla chip, crushed (¼ cup)
  • tablespoons ground cumin
  • tablespoon paprika
  • tablespoon garlic powder
  • tablespoon ground coriander
  • teaspoons dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • (14.5-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • tablespoon vegetable oil
  • onion, chopped fine
  • garlic clove, minced
  • 1—2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • (15-ounce) can pinto bean
  • teaspoons sugar
  • tablespoons cider vinegar
  • Lime wedges
  • Coarsely chopped cilantro
  • Chopped red onion


  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees. Toss beef with 2 tablespoons water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and baking soda in bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place anchos in Dutch oven set over medium-high heat; toast, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes, reducing heat if anchos begin to smoke. Transfer to food processor and let cool.
  3. Add tortilla chips, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, coriander, oregano, thyme, and 2 teaspoons pepper to food processor with anchos and process until finely ground, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl. Process tomatoes and their juice in now-empty workbowl until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  4. Heat oil in now-empty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beef and cook, stirring with wooden spoon to break meat up into 1/4-inch pieces, until beef is browned and fond begins to form on pot bottom, 12 to 14 minutes. Add ancho mixture and chipotle; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add remaining 2 cups water, beans and their liquid, sugar, and tomato puree. Bring to boil, scraping bottom of pot to loosen any browned bits. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until meat is tender and chili is slightly thickened, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  6. Remove chili from oven and let stand, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir in any fat that has risen to top of chili, then add vinegar and season with salt to taste. Serve, passing lime wedges, cilantro, and chopped onion separately. (Chili can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

Toasting torn ancho chili pieces.

Cooking the chopped onion and garlic.

Browning the meat in the onion mixture.
Added the ancho chili and spice mixture to browned meat.

Just prior to cooking in oven for 2 more hours.

A small taste test before putting into oven.

The chili after cooking in oven for two hours on low heat.

We wanted to test the taste difference before, and then again after the chili cooked in the oven for a couple of hours. And not surprisingly, the fully cooked chili had a discernible depth of flavor intensity that the earlier chili did not possess.

Diced avocado, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese are also good options for garnishing. This chili is intensely flavored and can be served with tortilla chips and/or plenty of steamed white rice—although we enjoyed it with just a smattering of red onion and fresh cilantro.

One-pan Meal #5: Cod with Pancetta, Artichoke Hearts and Olives

Keeping in the vein of easy dinners, we found this recipe to be a worthy contender—and it wraps up the series on one-pan meals. Despite the ease of preparation—the fish, sauce, and side dish all cook in one skillet—this is a restaurant-worthy dinner. We paired ours with a healthy baby kale side salad, however you could also serve with a crusty bread to mop up the sauce… and the leftovers were just as good…

Ingredients laid out ready to start cooking.


  • 4 6-oz. pieces fresh cod loin fillet
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup large green olives, such as Castelvetrano, pitted and halved


  1. Pat the cod dry and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring, until crisp and golden, 2 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate, leaving the fat behind in the pan.
  3. Add the fish to the skillet and cook until slightly golden, about 3 minutes. Flip and transfer to a plate, seared side up.
  4. Add the onion, thyme, and pepper flakes to the skillet; cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and cook until the pan is almost dry, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juice, artichokes, and olives. Simmer, stirring occasionally, to meld the flavors, about 2 minutes.
  5. Lower the heat to medium and nestle the fish into the sauce, keeping the seared side exposed. Cover and cook until the fish is opaque and just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the pancetta, divide among rimmed plates or wide, shallow bowls, and serve.

Nestling the fish into the cooked sauce for another 3 minutes.

The one-pan meal is ready to plate.

Our note: If not using a non-stick skillet, double the olive oil to prevent the fish from sticking.


by Christine Burns Rudalevige from Fine Cooking

Sinfully Sublime

You’ll think you died and went to heaven after tasting this Bourbon-Chipotle Ribeye Steak! Seriously. It’s as good, or better, than any steak ordered at Ruth’s Chris Steak House—yet you’ll pay a fraction of the cost. Granted it won’t be bottom of the barrel prices because good, thick ribeyes are not cheap. But don’t short change yourself and purchase a mediocre cut of beef. After all, you and your significant other are worth it, right?

An almost-2-pound ribeye getting happy in it’s spice rub.

It’s meals like this that remind me why I’m not a vegetarian. The perfectly cooked, mouth-watering, juicy pink center of pure carnivorous bliss that melts in the mouth—oh YES, it was that good! With a side of delicious Sautéed Green Beans Caceres Style—haricots verts sautéed in a bit of pancetta and sweet smoked Spanish paprika—it’s a home run. And no carbs to boot! Don’t get me wrong, Russ has cooked/grilled some fabulous steaks during our years together, maybe even some better than this. But currently, this is the one that is on my radar, and in my dreams—YES, it was that good!

Of those superstar steaks, we found this recipe for two in a recent edition of our Fine Cooking Magazine. It’s a great way to cook a thick rib-eye indoors: sear it in a cast-iron skillet, then finish it in a hot oven. The smoky, boozy sauce is made right in the pan so it absorbs some of those browned bits from the meat. We made this on a weeknight, so time was a factor. All-in-all, with me prepping the ingredients prior to Russ getting home from work, and the actual cooking time, we were eating in about 45 minutes. And eat we did—savoring every succulent bite…

Preparing the shallot and adobo sauce while the meat rests.

Meat has to set for a few to seal in the juices, so once the steak rested for 10 minutes, Russ started carving by first removing the bone.

Next he carved slices on a grooved cutting board to catch the yummy juices.

A close-up of the steak with the chipotle shallot sauce.

Cooking the pancetta for the green beans dish.

A close-up of the haricots verts before plating.

This was one of the most succulent and tasty steaks we’ve ever eaten! We gave it a 5-star rating on


  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 2-inch-thick, bone-in beef rib-eye steak (about 1-3/4 lb.)
  • 2 Tbs. minced shallot
  • 1 tsp. minced canned chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 2 Tbs. bourbon
  • 1/4 cup lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, paprika, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Rub all over the steak.
  3. Heat a 10- to 12-inch cast iron skillet over high heat for about 2minutes. Sear the steak until well browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast until done to your liking (120°F for rare; 125°F for medium rare), 12 to 15minutes. Transfer the steak to a cutting board.
  4. Put the skillet over medium heat, add the shallot, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chipotle and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat, add the bourbon, and swirl until the sizzling stops. Return the pan to the heat and add the broth, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Bring to a simmer. Swirl in the butter until melted. Remove from the heat.
  5. Slice the meat and serve with the sauce.


Sautéed Green Beans Caceres Style

  • 1 1/2 pounds broad flat green beans, ends trimmed
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pancetta cut into 1/4-inch cubes (or Serrano ham or prosciutto with some fat)
  • 1/4 tsp. sweet paprika, preferably Spanish smoked
  • 1 tsp. red or white wine vinegar
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beans, return to a boil, then cook at a high simmer for about 20 minutes.* Drain.
  2. heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the pancetta and sauté for a minute, the add the beans and sauté for another 2 minutes. Lower the heat, stir in the paprika and vinegar, and cook for another minute before serving.

*Because we substituted haricots verts for the flat beans, the amount of time we cooked the beans was much less. So keep an eye on whatever type of green bean you use and remove from heat and drain when crisp tender.

One-Pan Meal #4: Herbed Pork Tenderloin with Mustard-Roasted Apples and Potatoes

It’s been several weeks since I blogged about my one-pan meals, so here’s number four in the series of five recipes. A mixture of fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme coats quick-cooking pork tenderloin, which pairs beautifully with tender apples and potatoes. The whole thing makes your kitchen smell like a dream—and the flavor? Even better. Perfect autumn dinner… The leftover pork was cubed and used for a meal of Pork-Fried Rice a few nights later.

The ingredients, minus the pork tenderloins.


  • Cooking spray
  • 1-1/2 lb. red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. country-style Dijon mustard
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, mashed to a paste with the side of a chef’s knife
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 small pork tenderloins (about 1 lb. each), trimmed
  • 1 Tbs. dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 2 green apples, cored and cut into 8 wedges each
  • Flaky sea salt
Cubed red potatoes and onions on a rimmed sheet.
Granny Smith apple wedges in dressing.
Pork tenderloins covered with the rub.
Tenderloins on top of the partially cooked potatoes and onions.
Slicing the pork after resting for 10 minutes.
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment and mist with cooking spray. Toss the potatoes and onion together on the prepared pan.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the oil, 1 Tbs. of the mustard, the mashed garlic, and a big pinch each of salt and pepper. Reserve 2 Tbs. and drizzle the remaining mixture over the vegetables on the sheet pan, tossing to coat. Spread the vegetables evenly and roast until beginning to soften and color slightly, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, pat the pork tenderloins dry with a paper towel. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and mustard with the sugar, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper; rub all over the pork. Sprinkle the chopped fresh herbs to coat on all sides.
  5. Toss the apple wedges with the reserved 2 Tbs. of dressing, then toss with the vegetables on the pan. Place the tenderloins on top of the vegetables, leaving some space between the two pieces of meat.
  6. Roast, flipping the meat once halfway through, until the vegetables are browned and tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork registers 145°F, 25 to 30 minutes total.
  7. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest, loosely covered with aluminum foil, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the vegetables with the vinegar.
  8. Slice the pork, sprinkle with sea salt, and serve with the vegetables.


by Molly Gilbert from Fine Cooking

Halloween Sugar Cookies

What do skeletons say before eating?


This year I became obsessed with upping my game when decorating Halloween cookies. In a wild frenzy lasting several weeks, I pinned all kinds of cookie images, depicting every possible holiday/event, onto my “Decorated Cookies” Pinterest board (over 800 pins and counting). Then I began watching tutorials on best practices for piping and flooding royal icing.

So of course that prompted me to haunt (pun intended) the craft stores to enlarge my baking and decorating repertoire. My purchases included green, purple, orange and black food colorant, a variety of sprinkles, a coffin cookie cutter (already had a pumpkin, ghost, witch, and half moon), and a box of 100 tossable pastry bags. After all, when using numerous colors at once, who wants to keep cleaning out your pastry bag between each color?? Not me! Also needed, various pastry bag tips and plastic squeeze bottles for “flooding” the icing.


I was on a mission—much to the amusement of my husband Russ. My distribution plan was to give them out to a few neighbors who have young children aged 7 and under, and a platterful to Russ’ son David who now resides in a house with three other twenty-something males. And since Russ is on a wheat-free diet, we wouldn’t be keeping any at the house. Full steam ahead…

If you’re not familiar with making decorated sugar cookies, you need to know this is a 3-to-4 day process. First you mix the dough and let it refrigerate over night, then you roll out portions of the dough on a floured surface and cut out the shapes, baking them in a 400 degree oven. That’s the easy part. To decorate, you must pipe the outlines using stiff royal icing, followed by flooding the interior spaces with a thinned icing. It’s usually best to let them dry overnight before continuing with the detailed decorations.


But to me, that’s where the fun begins! I found it’s easiest when you have every color in both a pastry bag for piping and detail, and a squeeze bottle for flooding. However, I needed more tips in the same sizes, so another trip to the craft store is in order before the next holiday! And if you’re adding sprinkles, make sure to scatter them over wet frosting. But most importantly, DO NOT stack them on top of one another until completely dry. Better yet, when completely dry, stack them with a layer of wax paper between each tier in an air tight container. Remember, you can also freeze them.

When I first started this blog, I posted the sugar cookie recipe under the “Sentimental Favorites” tab, but I’m going to repost the ingredients and directions here in case you’re interested.




1 1/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
4 beaten eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

  • Cream softened butter in mixer. Gradually add sugar.
  • Add vanilla to beaten eggs and pour into creamed butter mixture.
  • Sift flour with baking powder and salt, and add to mix master.
  • If desired, add food colorant to dough.
  • Make dough, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 4 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Roll out the dough to about 1/8″ thick onto a pastry cloth or countertop sprinkled with flour.
  • If you do this in sections, keep the unused portion in the frig.
  • Place cut out cookies onto cookie sheet (you can line with parchment paper if desired.)
  • Bake in oven for about 8 minutes, until just barely starting to brown underneath.
  • Place cookies on rack to completely cool before decorating.

Here’s a link to the Royal Icing recipe by Wilton.
Many reviewers, including myself, add a teaspoon or so of vanilla or other flavored extract.

When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam,
May luck be yours on Halloween.

Eat, drink and be scary!


Spanish Braised Chicken

The rich flavor and lush consistency of this classic dish—Pollo en Pepitoria—from Spain’s Castilla–La Mancha region depend on a sherry-based sauce thickened with ground almonds and egg yolks. In addition to being delicious, pepitoria is one of the oldest Spanish recipes around, one that dates back to the 13th century by Cervantes himself! And once you’ve tasted it, you’ll understand why it has persevered through hundreds of years!


Any dry sherry, such as Fino or Manzanilla, will work in this dish, so for savory cooking purposes, stick with a dry, not sweet variety. We almost always have both brands on hand because not only do we often cook with it, Russ enjoys a drink of dry sherry now and again—not my cup of tea at all. We paired ours with a Grilled Asparagus with Honey and Sherry Vinegar from The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen (recipe also follows.) And crusty bread would make a fine accompaniment if you don’t have a wheat issue.


  • 8 (5- to 7-ounce) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped fine
  • 2 hard-cooked large eggs, peeled and yolks and whites separated
  • 1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds, toasted
  • Pinch saffron threads, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

Browning the chicken thighs on both sides.

Cooking the diced onion in the chicken drippings.

Nestling the thighs into the onion and tomato mixture.

Checking the chicken’s temperature for doneness.

An interior shot of blender ingredients.

Blended almond mixture is cooked with other ingredients to make the sauce. Almonds processed with garlic, saffron, and hard-cooked egg yolks add body and flavor to the braise.


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Pat thighs dry with paper towels and season both sides of each with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add thighs and brown on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer thighs to large plate and pour off all but 2 teaspoons fat from skillet.
  3. Return skillet to medium heat, add onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until just softened, about 3 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons garlic, bay leaf, and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sherry and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until sherry starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth and tomatoes and bring to simmer. Return thighs to skillet, cover, transfer to oven, and cook until chicken registers 195 degrees, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer thighs to serving platter, remove and discard skin, and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. While thighs cook, finely chop egg whites.
  4. Discard bay leaf. Transfer 3/4 cup chicken cooking liquid, egg yolks, almonds, saffron, and remaining garlic to blender jar. Process until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down jar as needed. Return almond mixture to skillet. Add 1 tablespoon parsley and lemon juice; bring to simmer over medium heat. Simmer, whisking frequently, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Pour sauce over chicken, sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley and egg whites, and serve.

Grilled Asparagus with Honey and Sherry Vinegar




  • 2 pounds fat asparagus, trimmed
  • 4 Tbsp. fragrant extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 3 Tbsp. sherry vinegar, preferably aged
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for serving


  1. Light the grill and preheat it to medium or preheat the broiler.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, scrape off the tough outer skin from the lower stalk of the asparagus. Rinse, pat dry with paper towels, and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Place the honey, vinegar, and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl and whisk to mix. Season lightly with coarse salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. Grill or broil the asparagus until tender and only lightly charred, turning once, about 3 minutes per side.
  5. Arrange on a serving plate, toss with the sauce, and sprinkle flaky sea salt on top. Serve at once.

Platter of finished Spanish braised chicken thighs.


Unlike stews, sauces, and stir-fries that are thickened with starches or dairy, many Spanish stews and braises get their rich, hearty body from a pesto-like nut-based thickener called apicada. The basic formula, which many sources claim dates back to at least the 13th or 14th century, includes finely ground almonds or hazelnuts (picar means “to chop”) and seasonings like garlic, herbs, and spices. But many versions also contain toasted or fried bread or even hard-cooked egg yolks, as in the recipe here. The ingredients are traditionally pounded to a thick paste with a mortar and pestle (we use a blender for speed) and stirred into the pot toward the end of cooking so that it can lend body, richness, and flavor to the cooking liquid.

Whole-wheat Pasta with Braised Squash, Chard, and Pistachios


Here’s another tasty, meatless weeknight meal. If someone in the family insists on meat, add some crumbled cooked sausage for them to stir into their portion.


  • 3/4 lb. short whole wheat pasta
  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 leeks (white and light green parts only) halved and sliced
  • 1 small bunch Swiss chard, stems chopped and leaves sliced, separated
  • 1/2 kabocha (or other winter squash) about 2 pounds, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 oz. pecorino, grated (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
  • 1/3 cup roasted pistachios, chopped


  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, chard stems, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes.
  3. Add the squash and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the squash is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Add the squash mixture (and any liquid)), chard leaves, pecorino, the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pasta and toss to coat.
  5. Serve topped with pistachios and additional pecorino.


Our Notes: Instead of kabocha we used butternut squash; and we switched out the whole wheat pasta for the rad looking organic Trottole pasta. We doubted the squash would be tender in the allotted 8 to 10 minutes as directed, and sure enough, it took twice that amount of time!

And of course I needed that extra kick so I added a sprinkle of crushed red pepper!

—Recipe from Nov. 2014 issue of Real Simple Magazine.


Beloved by Greeks and non-Greeks alike, this hearty casserole is one of the best things you’ll ever eat. Like most good things, Moussaka takes time to make, but it feeds a crowd. Plus, leftovers are a treat. In other words, not a week night meal if everyone is still working—as is the case in our house…


A hearty casserole, Moussaka features layers of eggplant and potatoes topped with a savory, tomatoey meat sauce and a creamy-yet-light béchamel that’s baked until browned and bubbly. One bite, and you swoon because the layers have melded together to create an incredibly delicious, comforting dish.

So after all of those easy one-pan meals I recently blogged about, this recipe was certainly more labor-intensive. But it was a perfect project for us both on a cool Sunday afternoon with the Eagles football game playing on TV in the background (and both of our teams, the Eagles and Steelers won!) So grab yourself a cooking buddy when you attempt this recipe—they’ll find it is well worth the effort in the end. We think of it as a lighter take on a lasagna because it has no pasta and very little cheese.

Our changes included using ground lamb, a more traditional Moussaka ingredient, instead of ground beef. We upped the quantity of meat from 1 pound to 1 1/2 pounds—and next time we’ll incorporate 2 pounds of meat. The recipe calls for one tablespoon of tomato paste but we added closer to three. In addition, with Russ eliminating wheat from his diet, we used a gluten-free product in place of the flour. Obviously it makes way too much for just two people, but we had leftovers AND we froze a large portion for a future meal.

Step-by-Step Tutorial (recipe follows)

hopping onion and slicing eggplant.

Salted eggplant draining in colander over sink.

Rinsed eggplant drying on towel.

Sautéeing onion in olive oil.

Cooking ground lamb with the sautéd onion.

Adding the chopped parsley, diced tomato and tomato paste to the meat and onion mixture.

Frying the potato slices.

Potato slices cool and get a sprinkle of salt.

Layering the potato slices on top of each other in a greased pan.

The next overlapping layer is the cooked eggplant slices.

The third layer is the meat and onion mixture.

Finishing the béchamel sauce with a brisk whisk.

Pouring the béchamel over the layers.

For the meat sauce
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. 80% lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
For the eggplant
  • 3 lb. eggplant (about 2 medium or 5 to 6 baby eggplant), trimmed and sliced crosswise about 1/4 inch thick
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the potatoes
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium russet potatoes (about 2-1/2 lb.), rinsed and dried
  • Kosher salt
For the béchamel
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2-1/4 oz. (1/2 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino romano (1/2 cup)
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg; more to taste
  • Kosher salt
Make the meat sauce

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, a generous pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 5 to 8 minutes.

Turn the heat up to medium high. Add the beef, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat, until browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the wine; turn the heat down to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parsley, tomato paste, and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Turn the heat down to low and gently simmer to meld the flavors, stirring once or twice, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Salt the eggplant

Cover the bottom and sides of a large colander with a single layer of the eggplant slices and sprinkle generously with salt. Top with more layers of eggplant, salting each layer until you run out of slices. Let sit in the sink or over a large bowl for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Pan-fry the potatoes
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat until shimmering hot (about 375°F).
  2. Meanwhile, slice the potatoes crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds, discarding the end slices.
  3. Working in batches, slide 10 to 15 potato slices into the hot oil in a single layer. Fry, flipping once, until the potatoes are tender, about 4 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined tray and gently blot off the excess oil. Lightly season with salt. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.
Roast the eggplant
  1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Rinse the eggplant in cold water to remove excess salt. Press the slices between paper towels or clean kitchen towels to dry, then arrange them in a single layer on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Lightly brush both sides of each slice with the olive oil and lightly season both sides with salt and pepper. Roast, flipping once, until tender and lightly browned, 30 to 35 minutes total.
Make the béchamel
  1. Heat the milk in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until steaming; set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until golden, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and then simmer gently, whisking, until the raw flour taste is gone and the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and gradually whisk in the eggs; whisk vigorously to combine. Remove from the heat.
  3. Set aside 1 Tbs. of the cheese for assembly, and add the remaining cheese to the sauce, along with the nutmeg and 1 tsp. salt; whisk until smooth. Season to taste with more salt and nutmeg.
Assemble and bake
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  2. Arrange the potatoes in an even layer on the bottom of the dish, overlapping the slices like shingles. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tsp. of the reserved cheese.
  3. Arrange the eggplant slices as you did the potatoes, and evenly sprinkle with 1 tsp. of the remaining cheese. Spread the meat sauce in an even layer on top of the eggplant. Pour the béchamel over the meat sauce and spread in an even layer. Evenly sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp. cheese.
  4. Bake until the top is golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Make Ahead Tips
  1. You can make the meat sauce up to 2 days ahead and refrigerate it, or freeze it for up to 3 months.
  2. You can refrigerate an unbaked moussaka for up to 24 hours. Let it come to room temperature before baking. Or freeze it for up to three months. Defrost it in the refrigerator overnight, and let it come to room temperature before baking.



After reading all this, you’re probably mumbling “No way!” but believe me when I tell you, it is worth every minute of prep!

by Christina Pelekanos from Fine Cooking



And so it was on a recent Saturday night that we met long-time friends Marie and Tommy Collinson for dinner at Nectar. Ideally located between our two places of residence, I was intrigued to find out the Collinsons had previously dined there on numerous occasions; while Russ was there once for a luncheon, and it was my maiden voyage—but definitely not my last! Read about the experience under the Reconnecting with Friends tab…

One Pan Meal #3: Broiled Steak and Brussels Sprouts with Blue Cheese Sauce

In this one-sheet-pan supper, beefy New York strip steaks lend their flavorful drippings to sliced brussels sprouts sizzling below. To speedily prep the sprouts, use the slicing disk on your food processor, although I used the old-fashioned method—a knife. And for this reason, our slices might have been a bit thicker than called for, so we left them in the oven for the ten extra minutes while the steaks rested. Perfecto!

Sliced brussels sprouts ready for roasting.

The seasoned strip steaks on a rack above the sprouts.


  • Cooking spray
  • 20 oz. Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
  • 6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1-inch-thick New York strip steaks
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 oz. (about 1/4 cup) creamy blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola dolce
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives

The finished sprouts will have charred ones on the edges, just mix them with the less charred.

Slicing the medium-rare steaks after a ten minute rest.


  1. Position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler element, and heat the broiler on high.Line a large rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil and mist it with cooking spray.
  2. Place the Brussels sprouts on the prepared pan, drizzle with 3 Tbs. of the oil, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper, toss to coat, and arrange in an even layer.
  3. Spray a wire rack with cooking spray, and place it over the sprouts, nudging them so the rack lies flat. Brush the steaks with 1 Tbs. of the oil and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place on the rack.
  4. Broil, flipping the steaks once, until the sprouts are tender and charred on the edges and the steaks are cooked to your liking, 3 to 5 minutes per side for medium rare (125°F to 130°F).
  5. Meanwhile, purée the sour cream, blue cheese, vinegar, and the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in a food processor or blender until smooth.Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the chives.
  6. Allow the steak and sprouts to rest for 10 minutes. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and thinly slice. Toss the sprouts to combine the more charred ones with the less charred ones. Stir the sauce and thin with water, if needed.
  7. Serve the steak and sprouts with the blue cheese sauce.

The steaks and sprouts benefit from a dollop or two of the blue cheese sauce and a sprinkle of chives.

from Fine Cooking