Showing posts with label Side Dish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Side Dish. Show all posts

Monday, January 8, 2018

Mixed Greens Salad with Karen's Vinaigrette

After spending more than a month on what seemed like a butter, sugar, chocolate baking binge, I thought the first post for 2018 should skew to the healthier end of the food continuum. Not to worry, I haven't given up my sweet tooth or passion for baking. More than likely the year ahead will bring an abundance of 'sweet' recipes! With so many new recipes to try, tweek, and revisit, I am looking forward to seeing how evolves in the year ahead. It's hard to believe this blog is beginning it's sixth year! For those of you who have been on this journey with me from the beginning or jumped in later, I thank you! So much has changed in my life and in the world over the course of the past five years, it is only natural this space should continue to change as well. My goals for the year ahead are both simple and lofty. But more on that in a subsequent blog post.

Rather than celebrating the new year at home, we traveled up to chilly northern Wisconsin with some friends this year. We packed up our cars with enough clothes, games, food, and alcohol to last us well beyond the long holiday weekend. Having been up there more than a half dozen times in the past couple of years, I was the 'designated' tour guide. The perfect role for someone with Type A personality tendencies. Double digit below zero wind chills thwarted our plans to take a hike through a state park. Which meant most of our sightseeing was done 'in the car' rather than 'on foot'. However, there were plenty of memorable moments as we drove around to the iconic sites of the area. Including, but not limited to, taking in the full moon setting over a cherry orchard at dusk, enjoying the beauty of rural winter landscapes, having a moment of panic when one of us went missing, and being the recipients of the random of act of kindness from a stranger who stopped to help get us 'unstuck' from an icy incline. Having the car slide into the frozen bay wasn't on the trip's itinerary. Not only would it have ruined the day, I would have never had the chance to taste a mixed greens salad tossed in a slightly tart, slightly tart, incredibly delicious vinaigrette. 

We decided early on we would have a more intimate, home cooked new year's eve dinner rather than spending it with strangers in a restaurant. And considering our early in the day and subsequent new year's day roadside assistance incidents, it was probably a good idea we weren't out on roads that night. After enjoying some appetizers and prosecco, we feasted on filet mignons browned and roasted on a cast iron skillet (doesn't everyone travel with a cast iron skillet?), this lasagna bolognese, and a Mixed Greens Salad tossed in a vinaigrette to die for. It was the most scrumptious, yummiest, divine new year's eve dinner ever. Every course was memorable, but for me the most memorable was the salad made and brought by my friend Karen. The vinaigrette was unlike any I had ever had before.

Not counting the pinches of kosher salt and pepper, Karen's Vinaigrette is made with only three ingredients: raspberry balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and olive oil. It was slightly tart, slightly sweet, surprisingly light, and definitely one of the most refreshing vinaigrettes to grace a salad. After one bite, I hoped she would be willing to share her recipe with me.

As far as salads go, particularly this salad, there aren't any hard and fast rules about the quantity of mixed greens, green onions, dried cranberries, roasted almonds, mandarin oranges, and blue cheese to use. You only need to figure out which proportions make for a satisfying salad. The ingredient list below for the salad are simply a guideline. If you like more of anything, add it. But before adding all of salad ingredients to the mixed green, lightly dress the mixed greens with the vinaigrette. Note: I used only half of the vinaigrette and served the rest in a small pitcher alongside the finished salad.

If at all possible when making this salad, buy a block of your favorite blue cheese (mine is Point Reyes Blue) and make your own crumbles. Freshly made crumbles are the creamiest and most flavorful.

The mandarin oranges work incredibly well in this salad. But if you aren't a fan or want to change this salad up a bit, slices of Honey Crisp apples would be equally delicious. Note: Before adding the dried cranberries to the salad I mixed them with about a tablespoon of the vinaigrette to soften them just a bit.

Next to its' flavorfulness, is this salad's versatility. It paired perfectly with the filets and lasagna bolognese, but it would also be a great precursor or accompaniment to chicken, pork, all types of grilled meats. We had it with some grilled chicken this past week and there wasn't a bite left of the salad.

If you are looking to infuse more greens to your diet this year, add a new salad to your table, bring some savory balance to your sweet life, or wow your family and friends, make this Mixed Greens Salad with Karen's Vinaigrette. In addition to all of the memories created and photos taken on this trip, Karen's Vinaigrette was absolutely the best 'souvenir' I brought home. 

Mixed Greens Salad with Karen's Vinaigrette (recipe shared with me by my friend Karen Byrne)

1/4 cup Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar (I used the Raspberry Blush Balsamic Vinegar by Alessi.)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt

5 ounces mixed greens
1-2 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup whole almonds, roasted in the oven
1/4 cup whole dried cranberries tossed with 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (I used Point Reyes Blue Cheese, but use your favorite)
Half of a 11 ounce can of mandarin oranges, drained
Kosher salt
Black Pepper

1. In a glass jar or bowl, combine the  Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar and maple syrup.
2. Slowly whisk in olive oil until the mixture thickens and emulsifies. Season with a kosher salt and black pepper. Place extra vinaigrette in a small pitcher and set aside. (Or if making early in the day, cover and refrigerate.)

1.  Place salad greens on a serving platter. Lightly toss with half of the vinaigrette. Lightly season with kosher salt and pepper.
2. Sprinkle the onions, almonds, dried cranberries and blue cheese evenly over the greens.
3. Arrange the mandarin orange slices on top of the salad.
4. Serve along with the remaining pitcher of the vinaigrette and enjoy! 

Notes: (1) I like to toss the salad dressing with greens only and then topping with the other ingredients. If you like tossing it all together at once, would recommend you wait to add the blue cheese and mandarin oranges until you plate the salad on your serving platter. (2) Use a good quality maple syrup (Grade A or Grade B), but feel free to use your everyday olive oil for this dressing. (3) If you like your salad with more cranberries, almonds, green onions, blue cheese, and/or mandarin oranges, go for it. The proportions I shared here reflect my preferences. (4) If at all possible, break up a block of blue cheese to make your crumbles rather than use prepackaged blue cheese crumbles to give your salad more texture. Gorgonzola would also work well in this salad. (5) If you don't like mandarin oranges, slices of apple (i.e., honey crisp) would also work well in this salad. (6) To soften the dried cranberries, toss then in tablespoon of the vinaigrette before adding to the salad.

Winter orchards and farms in Door County, Wisconsin (January 2018)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Potato Wedges

For as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with farms, old barns, and rural landscapes. So when I had the opportunity to go out to the farm of a friend of a friend, I jumped at the chance. Taking along my camera I had hoped to capture some up close photos of their chickens, roosters, and horses. For some reason, I had forgotten just how quickly chickens and roosters move. Maybe if, along with a hawk flying over the coop, there had not been four children, four adults, and a new puppy surrounding them, taking their photos would have been a tad easier. While I was fairly comfortable (for a city girl who had only once lived next to a farm) around these creatures, I was awestruck by the gentleness and ease two young sisters had in handling them. Certainly having taken care of these chickens and roosters since they were barely days old may have had something to do with it, but not enough to account for their much admired fearlessness. 

While I could have probably taken dozens more photos of the chickens and roosters, I couldn't wait to get into the pasture with the horses. You only have to be in the presence of horses or to look into their beautiful eyes to understand why so many are so fond of these majestic creatures. Or why just being around them is akin to having a Zen-like moment.  An overwhelming feeling of calmness came over me as I brushed the mane of one of the horses. I could have stayed in the pasture for hours. But I didn't want to wear out my welcome on my first visit.

If there is one food I have learned to love over time, it would definitely be potatoes. Had it not been for the occasional potato pancakes or french fries we had growing up, mashed potatoes would have permanently ruined them for me. Ironically today, I find it hard to pass up mashed potatoes. However, it's even harder to walk away from perfectly roasted rosemary and garlic potato wedges. Served with or without the obligatory side of ketchup. 

Hot out of the oven or room temperature, Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Potato Wedges are nothing short of being one of my favorite comfort foods. Many use baking or russet potatoes when making oven roasted potatoes, but Yukon Golds are my roasted wedge potato of choice as I think they are most flavorful and have the best texture. 

The size of your potato matters less than the size of your wedges. So whether you buy large or baby Yukon Gold potatoes, you only need to cut your wedges to as close as possible uniform size (i.e., thickness). 

The potato wedges are tossed in a mixture of olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, freshly chopped rosemary and garlic (either finely minced fresh or garlic powder). The listed amounts of rosemary and garlic are more guidelines than rules. If you like heavily seasoned, herbed potatoes, increase the amounts to your liking.

With one side of the cut potato wedge facing down, the potatoes roast/bake in a 400 degree (F) oven for 35-40 minutes. Or until they are lightly golden, crispy on the outside, and creamy on the side. Note: Turn potatoes over after 20 minutes of baking so both sides have the chance to bake flat against the pan.

Be careful not to squeeze too many potato wedges onto the pan (my baking pan was probably a little too full, but I got lucky and they baked up beautifully).

These Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Potato Wedges are incredibly delicious all on other own. In addition to the obligatory side of ketchup, they would pair well with either a bowl garlic aoili or sour cream. Don't forget to sprinkle the potatoes with a little more kosher salt when they come out of the oven! 

For a more rustic presentation, serve these Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Potato Wedges on the sheet pan they baked on. Or if you want to be a little less informal, serve them on one of your favorite platters. 

These crispy, creamy, well-seasoned Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Potato Wedges would be an impressive and substantial appetizer or the perfect side dish for a roasted chicken or grilled red meat (e.g., steaks, burgers). Your potato loving family and friends will be over-the-moon happy when they see these wedges brought to the table.

Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Potato Wedges

2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (could also use Russet potatoes)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for finishing
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 generous teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 generous teaspoon garlic powder or 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh garlic
Ketchup, garlic aoili, and/or sour cream for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).
2. Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Cut each half in half lengthwise again. Then cut each quarter lengthwise again, for a total of 8 wedges per potato. Each cut wedge should be of similar thickness. Place potatoes in a bowl.
3. Mix together the olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped fresh parsley and garlic powder. Pour mixture over potatoes, tossing to ensure they are evenly coated.
4. Arrange potato wedges on a single layer, cut side down, on a large rimmed baking sheet. Note: Be careful to not overcrowd the potatoes.
5. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the potatoes over so the other cut side faces down on the baking sheet. Continue baking for an additional 15-20 minutes or until they are lightly browned, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
6. Sprinkle with some additional kosher salt.
7. Serve immediately with Ketchup, garlic aoili, and/or sour cream.

Chickens, sisters and freshly laid eggs on the family farm in Wilmington, IL (October 2017)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Potato Salad

There is nothing quite like watching potato salad aficionados become weak in the knees or begin to drool in anticipation when a big bowl of homemade potato salad is set on the table. Especially a classic potato salad, the one lovingly made by the grandmothers, mothers, and Aunt Toni's in our lives. The paprika kissed top, brimming with red potatoes, sweet onions, celery, hard-boiled eggs, sweet pickles, and mayonnaise kind. Every family has their sacred, 'it's not broken so don't fix it', throw down worthy version of a homemade potato salad recipe. However, more often than not, these recipes aren't always written down. Instead they are passed down through the generations via word of mouth or learned by hovering in the kitchen and keeping a very close eye on potato salad maker.

Without a doubt, making a homemade potato salad is a labor of love. Which may explain in part why it is so crave worthy delicious. And why it usually makes only special appearances.

This Potato Salad made a reappearance over the Labor Day weekend. 

To prevent your potatoes from being too mushy or too hard, pick out same or similar sized red potatoes. Smaller ones are preferable to larger ones as they are the most flavorful. In a large pan of cold salted water, bring first to a boil and then immediately turn down to a simmer. The potatoes are done when the tip of a sharp knife inserted into them midway goes in smoothly. Allowing the potatoes to cool completely is key as warm potatoes will add moisture to your potato salad. A good way to begin passing this recipe along to your family and friends is to invite them over to peel your perfectly cooked potatoes.

There are no exact specifications to the size of the potato salad chunks. Some of mine are half-inch chunks, some a little smaller, some a little larger as I like a potato salad that looks like it was homemade.

There are also no hard and fast ratio rules with regard to the potatoes, onions, and celery. I use a medium sized sweet yellow onion and about 3-4 stalks of celery. Before I add any other of the ingredients I make sure to mix together the cut potatoes, onions, and celery. If it looks there isn't enough onion or celery, I might add a little more. I don't want the onion and celery to overwhelm the star of the show potatoes, but I do want to make sure every fork bite has some crunch to it. As laissez-faire as I might be about the sizes of the cut potatoes, I am all about cutting the onions and celery into an as even as possible small dice.

Some homemade potato salads use dill pickles and some use sweet pickles (with or without some added pickle brine). This one uses only sweet pickles. Note: Sweet pickle relish is not the same as chopped sweet pickles.

It's hard to say what makes this humble Potato Salad so wicked good. But the dozen, roughly chopped hard boiled eggs might be one of the front runners. Yes, one dozen (large) hard-boiled eggs. And even more if you like finishing the top of your potato salad with hard boiled egg slices. 

Before adding in the mayonnaise I mix in the salt and pepper, so I can decide if it needs any more after the mayonnaise is mixed in. So let's talk about a bit about the mayonnaise. I don't add all of it at once. I start with 1 1/4 cups, mixing with a spatula to begin evenly coating the vegetables. Then I start adding more mayonnaise in 1/4 cup increments to ensure the salad is not 'over-mayonnaised'. Usually I end up using somewhere between 1 1/2 and a generous 1 3/4 cups of mayonnaise. If not serving the potato salad until later or the next day, I won't add all of the mayonnaise all at once but will mix in more if needed. 

Taste for seasoning and then transfer all of this amazingly goodness into a serving bowl.

Serve immediately, chill for several hours, or chill overnight. Any and all of these options work.

When I am craving a homemade potato salad, I will either make the Lemony Potato Salad or this one. They are both amazingly good. Once you taste either one of them, you will find it hard to ever consider serving a store bought version to your family and friends again. 

Potato Salad
Serves 10-12

5 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled (Note: Choose same sized potatoes, preferably ones on the smaller size)
1 medium sized yellow or other sweet onion, diced (about 1 to 1 1/4 cups)
3 - 4 stalks of celery, diced (about 1 to 1 1/4 cups)
12 large eggs, hard boiled, peeled, coarsely chopped (plus more for garnishing on top if desired)
5-6 medium sized (3") sweet pickles, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt or more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 to a generous 1 3/4 cups mayonnaise (I use Hellman's)
Sweet paprika for garnish

1. Place potatoes in a large pan of salted water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook potatoes for approximately 30-35 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted into the potatoes goes in easily. (Note: Be careful not to cook the potatoes to the point where they begin to severely blister or get too mushy.)
2. Drain potatoes and allow to come to room temperature. The potatoes should feel cool to the touch.
3. Peel potatoes and cut into chunks (e.g. approximately 1/2" dice).
4. Mix together the cut potatoes, onion, celery, sweet pickles, kosher salt and pepper.
5. Add in coarsely chopped hard-boiled eggs. Mix until well incorporated throughout the potato mixture.
6. Stir in about 1 1/4 cups of mayonnaise using a spatula to begin to evenly coat the vegetables. Add an additional mayonnaise in 1/4 cup increments or until vegetables are evenly coated but not drenched in mayonnaise. Usually this brings the total amount of mayonnaise somewhere between 1 3/4 and 2 cups of mayonnaise.
7. Taste for seasoning. Add additional salt and/or pepper if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl.
8. Serve immediately or cover and chill for several hours.

Notes: (1) This makes enough for a large gathering. If serving less people, cut all of the ingredients in half. (2) Could also make this potato salad using all varieties of waxy potatoes (red, fingerling, or new potatoes). 

Forest Preserve views (September 2017)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Stovetop Mac and Cheese w/ Caramelized Shallots

Like most everyone else, I too got a little caught up in the whole 'first total solar eclipse in 99 years' frenzy. Considering how much attention THIS eclipse has been getting in the media, it was sort of hard not to want to experience firsthand one of those 'do you remember where you were on the day of' historic moments. Not even the slightly cloudy skies could dampen my eclipse excitement. In a national tallgrass prairie, looking up at the sun wearing my special glasses, I was standing in the path of totality.  Feeling connected to the sun, moon, stars, and the millions of others across the country equally obsessed with the eclipse was magical.

If the recipe for this Stovetop Mac and Cheese w/ Caramelized Shallots got as much attention as the eclipse, everyone would be making it. Yet unlike the total solar eclipse, this version of comfort food would be making regular, repeat appearances on dinner tables across the country.

Admittedly I am always skeptical when I come across a three ingredient recipe. Especially for a dish I happen to love and have labored over making. However, Melissa Clark's version of a stovetop mac and cheese made me believe in three ingredient possibility. I could easily see myself making it at least once weekly using the excuse one should always eat carbohydrates the day before a long run. But you don't need to be a runner to make this mac and cheese with the kind of frequency I anticipate will be happening around here. Loving and craving comfort food is reason enough.

I added caramelized shallots to it, so technically it's five ingredients. Although with or without the shallots, this may be the creamiest, most delicious, most addictive stovetop mac and cheese I have ever tasted. Topping the Mac and Cheese with caramelized shallots or onions adds a depth of flavor not found in the microwave or boxed stovetop versions of this classic comfort food. Thinly sliced shallots, sautéed in butter over low-medium heat until golden and crispy, takes only 15-20 minutes. 

Elbow macaroni may be considered the more traditional 'noodle' choice, but any small tubular or shell shaped pasta will work. One of the keys to this version of Mac and Cheese is cooking the pasta al dente. It will have additional cooking time when it is added to the sauce.

Speaking of sauce, be sure to reserve at least a quarter cup of the pasta water. More on why this is important this later.

Whether you choose a white or yellow cheddar or a mild, sharp or extra-sharp cheddar, choose a really good cheese to use. A good cheese, like a good bottle of wine, will make or break your dinner. 

All you need is five ounces of a coarsely grated cheddar. I could tell you this equates to 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese. However, depending on how you measure it out, you may end up with significantly less or significantly less than five ounces. So I will temporarily jump on the 'everyone should own a kitchen scale' bandwagon for a brief moment. Don't think of a kitchen scale as a luxury, think of it as a necessity. Okay, my time limit on the bandwagon is up.

You can and should use the same pot for the entire dish (excluding the caramelized shallots of course). After draining the macaroni (remember to remove at least a 1/4 cup of the water first), the heavy whipping cream is poured into the already hot pan. In less than two minutes, the cream will come to a boil, thicken and slightly reduce. Add the grated cheese and continue stirring until all of the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Return the drained al dente macaroni to the pan, seaons with some salt, and continue cooking for a minute or two. Long enough for the macaroni become coated in the deliciously rich cheese sauce. If by chance your sauce doesn't have the creamy texture you had hoped for, add in some of the reserved pasta water. One tablespoon at a time until it reaches the consistency you desire. Note: I added about two tablespoons of the reserved pasta water.

Transfer the mixture to a serving dish and top with the caramelized shallots and some freshly cracked pepper. 

Honestly, this Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Caramelized Shallots is a bazillion times better than the boxed versions we may have all grown up with. Seriously, it's really, really, really delicious. Real cheese and real whipping cream create a cheese sauce for the mac and cheese to rival anything found in instant or frozen versions of mac and cheese. And it's definitely easier than the roux based, baked versions many of us have made. 

At the moment, I wonder if I will ever go back to making a baked version of mac and cheese. Okay, I probably will, but for the moment I am deeply, madly over the moon in love with this incredibly flavorful, satisfying stovetop version. It is everything and more comfort food should be. For those of you with a secret affinity or strong allegiance to the boxed or frozen versions of mac and cheese, make this Stovetop Mac and Cheese with (or without) Caramelized Shallots. I am willing to bet after one bite you will be converted to this real, homemade version of comfort food. And who knows, you might have everyone in your family asking if macaroni, cheddar cheese and whipping cream is on your grocery list every time you go shopping.

Stovetop Mac and Cheese w/ Caramelized Shallots (inspired by Melissa Clark's Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe as shared in her cookbook 'Dinner: Changing the Game')
Serves 2-3 as a main course, 4-5 as a side

2-3 large shallots, thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces elbow macaroni or tubular pasta
5 ounces cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (I love the flavor of Cabot's Extra Sharp Cheddar)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt/Pepper to taste

1. In small saucepan, melt butter. Add sliced shallots and cook over low low/medium heat until caramelized (approximately 15-20 minutes). Note: Stir frequently to prevent sticking or burning.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the macaroni/pasta and cook until al dente (about 1 minute less than package directions. Before draining, reserve about 1/4 cup of the the pasta water. Set drained macaroni/pasta aside.
3. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add cream and cook until thick, bubbling and reduced by half (approximately 2 minutes). 
4. Stir in grated cheese, whisking until completely melted.
5. Add pasta and cook until well combined. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water to enhance the creaminess. Season with salt.
6. Transfer to a serving dish. Top with caramelized shallots. Finish with some freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately

Notes: (1) If using cheddar cheese, consider using a good quality sharp or extra-sharp cheddar. (2) Instead of caramelized shallots, could top the Stovetop Mac and Cheese with caramelized onions. (3) If there are any leftovers, this reheats well in the microwave.

Prairie flowers in bloom on the day of the historic solar eclipse (August 21, 2017)