Tag Archives: vegetarian

Braised Sweet Potatoes with Orange and Olives (and Pork Tenderloin)

Here, we first decided on our side of Braised Sweet Potatoes with Orange and Olives before we committed to the main course of Sear-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary, Coriander and Mustard. Nothing boring about our penchant for Mediterranean cuisines where the flavors are big and brash, heavy on citrus, spices and bold ingredients used with abandon.

The vegetarian sweet potatoes dish was in a recent copy of Milk Street magazine who noted it originally came from German food blogger Meike Peters. So the challenge was to find a main course that would stand up to the bold flavors. In Molly Stevens’ “All About Roasting” cookbook she wrote an article on basic sear-roasted pork tenderloin that lists four different flavor options.

Our first choice, orange- and thyme-rubbed, would have been a perfect “plate-mate,” however the pork had to be seasoned for 4-24 hours ahead of time, a luxury we didn’t have. So choice number two was seasoned with rosemary, mustard and coriander—a spice also in the potato recipe. This mustard-based paste turned the simple pork tenderloin into something fragrant and special with little effort.

Now about that side dish. First, cook the potatoes with a small amount of orange juice and water until tender, then stir in candied citrus zest and chopped black olives, which provide depth and pops of briny flavor. This recipe resonated not only for its bold flavors, but also for its use of a low-liquid braise, a technique that concentrates flavor. 

In Milk Street’s version, you’ll get plenty of citrus notes from the coriander and juice, and this keeps the recipe a one-pot preparation, woohoo! Then the onions are browned more for a slightly deeper flavor and cayenne pepper adds an extra bit of savoriness.

BUT, and it’s a big one, we instinctively knew that there was no way those potato chunks would be tender in 8-11 minutes. And they were not. Plan on adding another 10 minutes to this step.

TIP: Don’t use a narrow saucepan or pot for this recipe. The wider diameter of a Dutch oven allows the potatoes to be distributed in a thinner layer, which results in more even cooking.

Braised Sweet Potatoes with Orange and Olives

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs. orange-flesh sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • ⅔ cup orange juice
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup black or green pitted olives, or a mixture, chopped

Directions

  1. In a Dutch oven over medium-high, cook the oil and coriander seeds, stirring, until fragrant and sizzling, 2 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes, orange juice, cayenne, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and ½ cup water. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted into the potatoes meets no resistance, 8 to 11 minutes. (It took ours 20 minutes until tender.)
  4. Uncover and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has almost fully reduced and the potatoes are glazed, about 2 minutes.
  5. Off heat, stir in the olives. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

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The inspiration comes from a recipe in “365,” a cookbook by German food blogger Meike Peters; reimagined by Courtney Hill for Milk Street

Citrus Couscous Salad

The temps are warming here in southeastern PA, which starts our craving for brighter tasting food. This Citrus Couscous Salad recipe was spotted in Fine Cooking Magazine, but originated in Better Homes & Gardens from what I can surmise. Doesn’t really matter, we made numerous changes to make it our own.

Orange zest, juice, and segments brighten up this fresh take on a “pasta” salad recipe. Despite popular belief that couscous is a type of whole grain (it does have a rice-like appearance), it is actually a pasta made of semolina and wheat flour that is moistened and tossed together until it forms little balls. (Sorry keto-friendly dieters.)

Not only does couscous cook quickly—a plus for most home cooks—it is an excellent main or side dish that pleases almost anyone’s palate. While the original recipe used 6 oranges, and fed as many, the ingredients list here was halved for the most part. Although, the thyme and olive quantities remain the same, pine nuts were swapped out for the hazelnuts.

Because it can sit at room temperature, it would be a great asset at any pot luck or picnic.

Citrus Couscous Salad

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 large Cara Cara, navel, or other oranges
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1⁄2 cup Israeli couscous
  • 3⁄4 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1⁄2 cup very thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp. pinenuts, toasted
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped, pitted Castelvetrano olives or Manzanilla olives
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. coarse salt
  • ⅛ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper (optional)

Directions

  1. Using a vegetable peeler remove strips of zest from one orange, being careful not to remove the white pith; set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan with a tight lid heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add couscous; cook 2 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring often. Add two orange strips, broth, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to boiling over medium-high heat; reduce heat. Cover; cook 12 to 15 minutes or until couscous is tender and all liquid is absorbed. Let cool; discard strips.
  3. Meanwhile, using a paring knife, remove peel and pith from the other two oranges. Working over a small bowl to catch juices, cut out each segment from membranes. (Or slice into wheels.)
  4. For citrus oil: Chop enough of the remaining orange strips to get 1 tablespoon In a 10-inch skillet combine chopped strips, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic, and thyme. Heat over low heat 5 minutes or until warm; set aside.
  5. To serve, on a platter combine orange segments and juices, couscous, red onion, pinenuts and olives. Drizzle with red wine vinegar. Spoon citrus oil over top. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper, and, if desired, crushed red pepper.

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Adapted from a recipe by Better Homes and Gardens

Tagliatelle with Portobellos and Chive Ricotta

In this hearty vegetarian dish borrowed from Milk Street, an umami-rich mushroom sauce combines with tarragon-tossed tagliatelle pasta. Red miso and mild portobellos ground the flavors in earthy richness that contrasts well with a finishing spoonful of chive-seasoned ricotta cheese. It is rich and filling, so a simple side salad makes a nice accompaniment.

Tagliatelle, which oddly enough we were unable to find, is an egg noodle similar in shape to fettuccine, but with a finer texture and richer flavor. Dried versions are often sold bundled in nests. In its place, we substituted pappardelle, where the only difference is in dimension—pappardella is one and a half wider than tagliatelle and slightly thicker (although Cipriani is a very thin pasta).

Milk Street notes that the time table for this recipe is 30 minutes. It took us double that even though our brand of pasta took only 4 minutes for al dente. Not sure why, maybe the prep took longer?? Just want to give you a heads up on that possibility.

TIP: The mushroom gills will give the sauce a murky appearance if left on, so make sure to scrape them off.

Tagliatelle with Portobellos and Chive Ricotta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. dried tagliatelle
  • 4 Tbsp. salted butter, divided
  • 2 lbs. portobello mushroom caps, gills removed, quartered and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 2 medium shallots, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 Tbsp. red miso
  • 1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, chives and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta and 2 tablespoons salt and cook until al dente.
  2. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and ½ cup of the reserved cooking water; toss to coat.
  3. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter until foaming.
  4. Add the mushrooms, shallots and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have released their moisture and are well browned, about 10 minutes.
  5. Pour in the wine, scrape up any browned bits and simmer until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  6. Pour in the remaining 1½ cups reserved cooking water, bring to a simmer and cook over medium-high until the mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes.
  7. Off heat, stir in the miso and remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Add the tarragon to the pasta and toss, then transfer to a serving bowl. Spoon the mushroom mixture over the pasta. Serve dolloped with the ricotta mixture and drizzled with olive oil.

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Recipe courtesy of Milk Street

Eggplant Involtini

Here’s a lighter version of Eggplant Involtini that focuses on the eggplant. Baking instead of frying allows you to skip the salting and draining step, since the eggplant’s excess moisture evaporates in the oven, and it means that the eggplant’s flavor and meaty texture are not obscured by oil and breading. This was sooo good, we can’t wait to make it again!

Swapping the usual ricotta-heavy filling for one that’s boosted with a generous dose of Pecorino Romano means we can use less filling without sacrificing flavor. Lastly, make a simple but complementary tomato sauce in a skillet, add the eggplant bundles to it, and finish it under the broiler, which decreases the number of dishes required—always a plus in our book!

Of course we put our own spin on the dish, first by utilizing the pieces of eggplant cut away before planking them. What a waste it would be to discard all of that—about 3 cups worth! So we cubed those leftover pieces into about a 3/8″ dice and sautéed them in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil until softened before adding the tomatoes to the same skillet.

Now here comes the real twist. We added very thin slices of prosciutto on top of the eggplant slices before spooning on the cheese filling. Of course this step makes it no longer vegetarian, but that extra ingredient added even more depth of flavor. And we served ours with a side of gemelli pasta, which negates the low-carb factor, if you’re not concerned with that aspect.

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplants (1 1/2 pounds each), peeled
  • 9 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ tsp. dried oregano
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, hand crushed coarsely in their juices
  • 1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 oz. whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 ½ oz. grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • ¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 4 oz. very thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half crosswise (optional)

Directions

  1. Slice each eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick planks (you should have 12-15 planks). Trim rounded surface from each end piece so it lies flat.
  2. Cut up those leftover rounded pieces into a 3/8″ dice and sauté them in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in your large skillet until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Adjust 1 oven rack to lower-middle position and second rack 8 inches from broiler element. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and spray generously with vegetable oil spray. Arrange eggplant slices in single layer on prepared sheets. Brush 1 side of eggplant slices with 2 1/2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Flip eggplant slices and brush with 2 1/2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  4. Bake until tender and lightly browned, 30 to 35 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cool for 5 minutes. Using thin spatula, flip each slice over. Heat broiler.
  5. While eggplant planks cook, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the diced eggplant in same broiler-safe skillet over medium-low heat until just shimmering. Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in hand crushed tomatoes and their juice. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. Cover and set aside.
  6. Pulse bread in food processor until finely ground, 10 to 15 pulses. Combine bread crumbs, ricotta, 1/2 cup Pecorino, 1/4 cup basil, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl.
  7. With widest ends of eggplant slices facing you, place a half slice of prosciutto, if using, on the wide end of each plank. Next, evenly distribute ricotta mixture on bottom third of each slice. Gently roll up each eggplant slice and place seam side down in tomato sauce.
  8. Bring sauce to simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and broil until eggplant is well browned and cheese is heated through, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Pecorino and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil and serve.

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Adapted from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook for America’s Test Kitchen

Linguine with Tomatoes, Orange and Olives

We’ve been particularly enamored of Mediterranean-inspired dishes as of late and this vegetarian pasta dish is loaded with the robust flavors of that region. It’s a riff on a recipe from “The Italian Country Table” by Lynn Rosetto Kasper, who found inspiration for the citrusy, savory tomato sauce in the markets of Siracusa, on the island of Sicily.

We found this recipe in a recent copy of Milk Street Magazine where they prefer the meaty, concentrated flavor of oil-cured black olives, but insist milder green olives (such as Castelvetrano) work well, too. Having oil-cured black olives on hand, we used them. The only major difference we made was to use fresh oregano at a ratio of 3-to-1, that is 1 tablespoon of fresh for the 1 teaspoon of dried.

The sharp tang of pecorino Romano cheese is an especially good match for the fruity, herbal flavors. While warm, crusty bread makes a nice partner to the dish, we opted for less carbs and paired the pasta with a side salad.

It was wonderful again the next day for lunch. Just drizzle a little EVOO over the top, cover and microwave for a few minutes, top with more grated cheese.

TIP: Don’t boil the pasta until al dente. Drain it when it’s a few minutes shy of al dente, but don’t forget to reserve about 1 cup of cooking water first. The pasta will finish cooking directly in the sauce, which allows the noodles to absorb flavor.

Linguine with Tomatoes, Orange and Olives

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. linguini or spaghetti
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. grated orange zest, plus ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn into small pieces
  • ½ cup pitted oil-cured black olives or green olives, finely chopped
  • 2 oz. pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (1 cup)

Directions

  1. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 2 tablespoons salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, orange zest, oregano and pepper flakes, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and orange juice, cover and cook until the tomatoes begin to burst, about 4 minutes.
  3. Reduce to medium, then press on any whole tomatoes with the back of a spoon so they burst. If the pasta is not yet done, remove the skillet from the heat, cover and set aside.
  4. To the skillet, add the drained pasta and ½ cup of the reserved pasta water. Bring to a simmer over medium and cook, tossing with tongs, until the pasta is al dente, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.
  5. Off heat, add the basil, olives and half of the cheese, then toss to combine, adding reserved pasta water if needed so the sauce coats the noodles. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and drizzle with additional oil.

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Adapted from a recipe from Rebecca Richmond for Milk Street

Hearty & Healthy: Farmhouse Vegetable and Barley Soup

You may know from experience, most recipes for hearty winter vegetable soups are neither quick nor easy. So for a satisfying soup that doesn’t take the better part of a day to make, start with homemade chicken stock which adds tons of flavor. (Use vegetable broth if maintaining a vegetarian diet.) Then add soy sauce and ground dried porcini mushrooms. These ingredients bring a savory, almost meaty flavor to the soup base. Next, to make the soup more filling, include barley to a hearty combination of carrots, potatoes, leeks, cabbage, and turnips.

Turnips you say? While I’ve never been a fan of turnips in and of themselves (I mean when was the last time you ever craved a turnip?) I don’t mind them as part of a mix of vegetables, like in this soup. But they certainly have a health profile worth checking out.

Here’s the lowdown: Turnips are loaded with fiber and vitamins K, A, C, E, B1, B3, B5, B6, B2 and folate, as well as minerals like manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium and copper. They are also a good source of phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids and protein. So yes, I will include them in fits and spurts throughout my meal plans.

Another startling statistic is the benefits of barley. Barley’s high fiber content helps food move through your gut and promotes a good balance of gut bacteria, both of which play important roles in digestion. Due to its high fiber content, it makes a great alternative to white rice dishes such as pilaf or risotto. One half cup is packed with 17.3 grams of fiber and 12.5 grams of protein!

So bottom line, this soup is very good for you!

Farmhouse Vegetable and Barley Soup

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • ⅛ oz. dried porcini mushrooms
  • 8 sprigs fresh parsley plus 3 Tbsp. chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ lbs. leeks, white and light green parts sliced ½-inch thick and washed thoroughly
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 1 ½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 turnip, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 ½ cups chopped green cabbage
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

Directions

  1. Grind porcini with spice grinder until they resemble fine meal, 10 to 30 seconds. Measure out 2 teaspoons porcini powder; reserve remainder for other use. Using kitchen twine, tie together parsley sprigs, thyme, and bay leaf.
  2. Melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, celery, wine, soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and celery is softened, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add water, broth, barley, porcini powder, herb bundle, and garlic; increase heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes.
  4. Add potatoes, turnip, and cabbage; return to simmer and cook until barley, potatoes, turnip, and cabbage are tender, 18 to 20 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from heat and remove herb bundle. Stir in peas, lemon juice, and chopped parsley; season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

Slow-Cooker Southwestern Bean Soup

What’s better than a good soup for lunches during the cooler months, or for a quick, healthy dinner in a time crunch? This Slow-Cooker Southwestern Bean Soup is a load-and-go crock pot recipe adaptation from one we found on Eating Well.

While there is really nothing “quick” about it because you first have to soak the beans overnight, the “fast” method in a slow cooker takes four hours on high, and the “slow” method takes seven or eight hours in the crockpot. Not exactly my idea of a quick turn-around. But the prep is quite simple and then its hands off for hours, allowing you to do other things.

As with many recipes, we alter them to suit or own personal preferences. In this case, we increased each of the three bean types from one-third cup to a half cup each. Then we included 4 pressed garlic cloves and a can of crushed tomatoes to address the moisture for the extra beans. All of these changes are noted below.

Bump up the Southwest flavors like we did with all, or some, of these garnishes of chopped fresh cilantro, some crumbled Cotija (or ricotta salata) cheese, sliced scallions and a squeeze of lime, if desired.

To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Slow-Cooker Southwestern Bean Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced 
  • 1 large stalk celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 2 cups water 
  • 4 cups chicken broth, (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • ½ cup dried black beans
  • ½ cup dried great northern beans
  • ½ cup dried kidney beans
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp. salt

Directions

  1. Soak black beans, great northern beans and kidney beans in water for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain and boil in fresh water for 10 minutes. Drain and add to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. Add oil, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, water, broth, tomatoes, barley, chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt to the slow cooker. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, about 4 hours on High, or 7 to 8 hours on Low.

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Recipe adapted from Carolyn Malcoun for EatingWell.com

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots

Brussels sprouts was one veggie that I steered clear of for years, mostly because they were never cooked properly and/or lacked any depth of flavor. But when I met Russ, he made a side of them for some home cooked meal when we first started dating, and I became a convert.

Over the following decades, we have often added Brussels sprouts to a menu, trying a whole host of various recipes. This one is a simple sauté of shallots, sprouts, and garlic, that are then browned in the oven and tossed with balsamic vinegar, and thyme. Toasted walnuts were also an ingredient, but not in this house as My Man detests them. You could always make some and serve them separately for those who want a nutty crunch.

I “Lynnized” the recipe to fit our preferences and pare back the 6-8 servings to 3-4. The ingredients list and directions speak to my changes.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, tough outer leaves removed, base trimmed, sprouts cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled, sliced in half
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in an oven-safe sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the shallots, spread them out in an even layer, lower the heat to medium low, and let them cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned.
  3. Add the Brussels sprouts and the garlic to the shallots. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts begin to brown.
  4. Drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
  5. Place in oven, uncovered. Roast at 425°F for 15 to 20 minutes, until cooked through and caramelized on the edges.
  6. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and the thyme. Stir to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

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Adapted from a recipe found on Simply Recipes

Pasta Alla Norma

The name of the dish is said to originate from the apocryphal exclamation by the Italian writer Nino Martoglio who, upon tasting the dish, exclaimed “This is a real ‘Norma‘!”, comparing it with the exceptional perfection of the Vincenzo Bellini opera Norma.

We obtained the recipe from Milk Street, but changed the penne pasta to gemelli, which gives a twist to the texture and captures more of the sauce in its curves. Feel free to use whatever pasta suits your fancy.

The eggplant is typically fried before being added to the sauce, but here it is roasted to concentrate the flavors and condense the porous texture. The eggplant is in the oven for about 30 minutes unattended, except for one toss; so use that time to prep the other ingredients, cook the pasta and simmer the tomatoes to make the sauce.

If you’ve never had ricotta salata, it is a firm cheese with a milky, salty flavor. Do not substitute fresh ricotta; a mild feta is a more appropriate substitute.

Don’t forget to reserve about ½ cup of the pasta cooking water before draining. You’ll need the starchy, salted liquid to help bring together the eggplant, pasta and sauce during the final simmer.

Pasta Alla Norma

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. eggplant, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 12 oz. penne rigate or mezze rigatoni pasta
  • 8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 oz. ricotta salata, shredded

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 475°F with a rack in the upper-middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 1½ teaspoons salt and 4 tablespoons of the oil. Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and roast until browned and tender, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring once.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 2 tablespoons salt; cook until the pasta is al dente. Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  4. While the eggplant roasts and the water heats, in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the tomatoes and 1½ teaspoons salt, then cover and cook, occasionally shaking the pan, until the tomatoes begin to release their liquid, about 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the vinegar, then use the back of a large spoon to crush the tomatoes. Cover, reduce to medium and cook, stirring, until the mixture breaks down into a lightly thickened sauce, 8 to 9 minutes.
  7. Add the drained pasta, eggplant and ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water to the tomatoes. Cook over medium, stirring constantly, until the sauce begins to cling to the pasta, 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Taste and season with salt. Stir in half of the basil and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining basil and the ricotta salata.

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Recipe adapted from Milk Street

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Kale-Miso Salad

Sweet potatoes roasted until deeply browned and tossed with a touch of paprika are a great foil for the savory, minerally notes of a miso-dressed kale salad, as noted in Milk Street magazine. The char on the potatoes provides a note of bitterness that balances the richness of the miso. Scallions and cilantro add fresh herbal notes and toasted nuts add crunch. (I switched out pistachios for the walnuts which The Hubs can’t stand.)

This was a perfect side dish for our Deviled Pork Chops entrée. Problem was, the chops took so much longer to cook than the recipe suggested, our sweet potatoes were way overdone by the time the meat was finally ready. And without white miso on hand, we incorporated red miso. Even so, it was still a fabulous pairing.

Don’t dress the salad until just before serving. If left to stand, the kale will turn limp and soggy.

Our potatoes were huge so after peeling them, I first cut them in half vertically before slicing into wedges.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Kale-Miso Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 medium orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (about 2¼ pounds), peeled, halved crosswise and cut into 1-inch wedge
  • 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ¼ tsp. sweet paprika
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • 4 tsp. sherry vinegar
  • 1½ tsp. white miso
  • 5 oz. baby kale
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced on bias
  • ½ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pistachios, toasted

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with 4 tablespoons of the oil. Spread the potatoes in an even layer on the baking sheet and roast until tender and the edges begin to darken, about 30 minutes.
  2. Stir the potatoes, return to the oven and increase to 500°F. Roast until dark spotty brown and slightly crisped, about another 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Sprinkle with paprika, ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper, then toss.
  3. While the potatoes roast, in a small bowl, stir together the garlic and vinegar. Let stand for 10 minutes to mellow the garlic. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the miso and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
  4. When the potatoes are done, in another large bowl, toss together the kale, scallions, cilantro and half the walnuts. Pour in the dressing and toss. Divide the sweet potatoes among serving plates and top with the salad. Sprinkle with the remaining walnuts/pistachios.

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Recipe adapted from Milk Street

Sautéed Celery and Leeks with Mushrooms

This savory herb-flecked sauté tastes just like stuffing, but without the bread—goodbye carbs! It embraces celery’s crisp texture and distinctive flavor. Found in a decade-old issue of Fine Cooking Magazine, it intrigued us enough to include as a side dish for our Smothered Chicken with Bourbon and Miso.

One rarely thinks of cooked celery as the star of a side dish. It typically takes a back burner as a mix-in to salads, additive to soups, or an accompaniment to hot wings. But here it shines and surprises. We have now added the recipe to our favorites and plan to serve to guests, especially those who are vegetarian.

Sautéed Celery and Leeks with Mushrooms

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium leek, rinsed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (white and light green parts only)
  • 6 stalks celery, cut in a diagonal in 1/2″ slices
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. chicken broth or water

Directions

  1. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, leek, and a pinch of salt; cook stirring often, until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt and cook until the mushrooms are lightly browned and tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the celery and a pinch of salt and cook until crisp-tender, 5 to 8 minutes.
  4. With a wooden spoon, stir in the lemon juice and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  5. Stir in the rosemary and sage and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
  7. Return the pan to medium heat, add the chicken broth or water, and scrape up any remaining bits. Let this liquid reduce by half and then pour over the celery.
  8. Serve immediately.

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Compliments of Melissa Pellegrino

Premium Pumpkin Bread

On a recent super-rainy, windy fall afternoon I made the comment that it would be a good day to bake bread. Russ immediately ran with that thought and mentioned he had just seen a pumpkin bread recipe from The New York Times.

“Yeah, but we don’t have any canned pumpkin,” was my reply. (When I was actually thinking more along the lines of a crusty whole grain loaf.) “I am capable of driving to the grocery store you know,” he bantered—and so he did just that.

But the only pumpkin purée The Hubs could find at the grocery store was a 29-ounce can which is almost double the amount required. We considered freezing the remainder, but then thought better of it and decided to make two loaves, and either freeze the second loaf or gift it.

We are both fans of pumpkin seeds and happened to have a bag of sprouted seeds on hand which I used as a topping. It is totally optional, but adds a nice little crunch to the velvety soft bread—the BEST pumpkin bread we’ve ever had, BTW.

Premium Pumpkin Bread

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • ½ cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • About 2 cups pumpkin purée or 1 (15-ounce) can
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup full-fat sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Sprouted pumpkin seeds for topping (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil an 8 ½- or 9-inch loaf pan; line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, sour cream and vanilla.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until fully combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.
  5. Bake until the loaf is puffed and set, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 60 to 75 minutes. (Ours took the full 75 min.)
  6. Transfer the bread, in the pan, to a rack to cool for 20 minutes.
  7. Use a paring knife to cut the two exposed sides of bread away from the pan, then use the parchment to transfer the cake to the rack. Let cool completely.

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Roasted Rosemary Butternut Squash and Shallots

Butternut squash is a fall heavyweight in my opinion. It pairs well with a variety of flavors and can reinvent itself either sweet or spicy. In this case, we are talking naturally sweet which really develops as it roasts. And you all know that butternut squash is very nutritious with the flesh full of vitamins A and C.

It was a gift from our compost. I noticed squash vines starting to grow in our herb bed backed by a trellised fence. We hadn’t planted any squash so I knew it came from when we composted the garden earlier in the season. Plus the rosemary was freshly picked from our herb garden. Thank you Mother Nature!

Oops, I completely forgot to add the 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar. It really wasn’t needed taste-wise because our squash was naturally sweet, but the sugar was more a conductor for caramelization. Although our cubes were lightly browned without it.

This recipe calls for a specific amount of squash, so you may have some leftover. Ours weighed in at 3.3 pounds—a good bit larger than the recipe called for. After peeling and seeding, your squash will lose 2-3 ounces of weight. For example, a 3-pound squash will yield about 2 pounds 13 ounces of flesh. This recipe calls for 2 pounds of diced squash, you’ll want to look for a squash that is around 2 pounds, 3 ounces in weight.

If you have leftovers like us, you may want to sauté the extra cubes and use them in a future frittata, salad or side dish. The toughest part of this recipe is peeling the squash, so it is permissible to buy already cubed, just make sure they are cut to 3/4″ cubes and uniformly sized.

Roasted Rosemary Butternut Squash and Shallots

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 cups 3/4-inch-diced, peeled butternut squash (from about a 2-pound squash)
  • 4 medium shallots, peeled, root end left intact, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin oil
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Put the squash cubes on a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet. Add the shallot quarters to the squash.
  3. Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables; toss to coat. Sprinkle the rosemary, salt, sugar and pepper over the veggies. Toss to coat again and distribute evenly over the baking sheet.
  4. Roast for 20 minutes. Stir, then continue rosting until the veggies are tender and lightly browned, 10-15 minutes more.
  5. Before serving, taste and season with more salt if desired.

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Adapted from a recipe found on finecooking.com

Tuscany’s Fagioli All’uccelletto

Otherwise known in English as White Beans with Sage, Garlic and Fennel. Super-fab! This one-pot vegetarian meal is so satisfying and tasty, that if you are a meat-eater—and we are—you won’t miss the meat. The simple combination of white beans, sage and garlic exemplifies the clarity of flavor the Tuscany region’s cooks can pull from just a few ingredients.

It is advised not to use cannellini beans, but rather Navy or Great Northern. We used the latter which are smaller than cannellini beans but larger than navy beans. Known for their delicate, nutty flavor, they’re usually added to casseroles and soups, such as this recipe. In summary, white beans provide a good source of protein, an excellent source of fiber, and several essential nutrients.

This recipe gave us a perfect opportunity to harvest the remainder of our fresh sage from the garden before the cold weather set in. Used in two ways—finely chopped and fried whole—this herb has a pronounced herbal flavor that is earthy, has a slightly peppery taste, and emits hints of mint, eucalyptus, and lemon. What’s more, sage is faintly piney, though not like juniper. It’s much softer and mixed with subtle citrus notes; perhaps a little on the bitter side, though not harshly so.

We loved it topped with an ample garnish of grated parmesan, but if omitted, it could work for the vegans in the family.

Don’t drain both cans of beans. The liquid from one of the cans creates a sauce-like consistency that keeps the beans succulent.

Tuscany's Fagioli All'uccelletto

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage, plus 20 whole leaves
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 14½-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 15½-oz. cans white beans, 1 can rinsed and drained
  • Shaved or grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Directions

  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the fennel, onion, garlic, chopped sage, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 15 minutes.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes and the beans. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer, for 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, line a plate with paper towels. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the sage leaves and cook, flipping the leaves once, until the edges begin to curl, about 1 minute. Transfer to the prepared plate; reserve the oil.
  4. Transfer the beans to a serving bowl, then drizzle with the sage oil. Coarsely crumble the sage leaves over the beans. Top with Parmesan.

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Recipe from Catherine Smart for Milk Street

Cheesesteak Meatloaf Paired with Ratatouille

Folks in much of the U.S. start to breathe a sigh of relief as the temps and humidity become more humane. With the welcome respite, we start craving comfort foods that haven’t made appearances on our dinner table since the early Spring. Meatloaf comes to mind as one of those cool-weather comfort foods, and here’s one with a local twist: Philly Cheesesteak Meatloaf.

I found this recipe on dinnerthendessert.com and decided it was worth a try, after all Philadelphia is our “mother” city, the place we refer to when on vacay and asked where we call home. It contains not only ground beef but green bell peppers, onions and mushrooms, and is topped and stuffed with provolone cheese. Not exactly haute cuisine, but certainly worth a try. And BTW, it is fantastic leftover!

Typically I like to serve mashed potatoes with meatloaf, but The Hubs suggested we pair it with a Farmers Market Ratatouille recipe found in our latest issue of Fine Cooking magazine. It is an example of simple food, prepared in a way to let humble ingredients shine that gets even tastier as it sits. You could even make it the day before, let the flavors meld in the refrigerator and reheat it when ready. A win-win in my book.

For a touch more depth of flavor, I included 1 teaspoon dried oregano, two dried bay leaves and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Keep in mind, the ratatouille is done in a slow cooker and takes over 6 hours total including the prep, so plan ahead. But you will love it because it’s rich in flavor, gluten-free, vegetarian, and absolutely delicious! If you have a non-meat eater in the household, they could make this their main course along with a hefty slice of crusty bread.

The directions instruct to employ a 6-quart slow cooker. We used our 7-quart model and it was filled to the brim initially, but everything cooked down to about half by the end. So you might want to start with a larger cooker if you have one. Oh, and feel free to throw in any errant veggies you may have lurking in the fridge. We had one cooked ear of corn, so I shaved off the kernels and threw them in for the last several minutes before the basil.

Philly Cheesesteak Meatloaf

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 8 oz.s brown mushrooms, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef, 85/15
  • 2 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 8 oz. Provolone cheese slices

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a large loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the butter and the onions and bell peppers, mushrooms, salt and pepper.
  3. Let brown for 3 minutes before stirring, then let brown for another 1-2 minutes before stirring again.
  4. Let cool for five minutes.
  5. In a large bowl add the ground beef, ketchup,Worcestershire sauce, eggs, panko breadcrumbs and the cooled vegetable mixture.
  6. Add half the mixture to your loaf pan then add half of the cheese, overlapping the slices.
  7. Cover with the rest of the meat and form into a flat-top loaf shape. Place your loaf pan on a rimmed baking sheet and put in the oven.
  8. Cook for 40 minutes, then pull out of the oven. Remove any excess grease from the corners with a baster. Cover with remaining cheese and put back in the oven.
  9. Cook for 15-20 minutes, then let rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

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Farmers Market Ratatouille

Farmers Market Ratatouille

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large (at least) garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1, 6-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 medium eggplant, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 medium Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lightly packed cup thinly sliced basil

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic, remove from the heat, and let cool 5 minutes
  2. Stir in the tomato paste until smooth.
  3. Combine all of the prepped veggies (except the basil) in a 6-qt. (or larger) slow cooker. Add the tomato paste mixture, bay leaves, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; stir well.
  4. Cover and cook on low until the vegetables are tender, about 5 hours.
  5. Remove the lid, and continue cooking until some of the liquid evaporates, about 30-45 minutes.
  6. Stir in the basil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve or cool and refrigerate until ready to eat.
Uncover and continue cooking for 30-45 minutes to evaporate some of the liquid.

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