Potato and Cheese Tart

229 days. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve sat down and tried to write anything here. Is it laziness? Writer’s block? A lack of interest? I suppose it could be all of the above. Hmm. 

Anyway… I was scrolling through my food pictures from 2019 when I stumbled on the pictures of this blue cheese potato tart, and I thought, “if there’s a recipe worth putting on the blog, it’s this one.”

I mean, this one ticks all of my food boxes: bread / pastry, potatoes, and cheese. If I could live on this combination AND still fit into my pants, I’d eat it 3-4 days a week. (My choice for the rest of the week? Tacos.) 

I’d originally planned to make the Parmesan / potato tart from the same issue of Cook’s Country, but I was running low on parm, so I went with the blue cheese version instead. I have zero regrets about that choice.

The tart takes a little while to bake, but that means you can have the dishes done (and a salad made, if you’re interested in balanced meals) by the time it comes out of the oven. It will smell incredible, and, if you’re anything like us, you’ll cheat the 20 minute cooling time by at least 10 minutes.

potatobluecheesetart

Blue Cheese and Potato Tart

For the tart dough: 
7-1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces and chilled
6-7 tablespoons ice water

For the filling: 
4 ounces cream cheese
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled, divided
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary, divided (I was out of fresh and subbed dried with no issues.) 
1/4  teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, separated
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8″ thick
1 shallot, thinly sliced

First, prepare the tart dough. Process the flour and and salt in the bowl of a food processor until combined, just a few seconds. Scatter the butter on the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses or so. Add 6 tablespoons of ice water and process until almost no dry flour remains, about 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining tablespoon of water if the dough won’t come together.

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and shape it into a 4″ square. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for an hour. (If you’re a planner, this step can be done ahead of time – the dough can hang out in the fridge for up to 2 days.) 

When you’re ready to make the tart, remove the dough from the fridge and preheat the oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or a silicone baking sheet). Let the chilled dough soften on the counter for about 10 minutes, then roll the dough into a 14″ x 11″ rectangle on a lightly floured counter. Transfer the dough rectangle to the prepared baking sheet.

In a large bowl, microwave the cream cheese until it’s softened, about 20 to 30 seconds. Whisk in 1/4 cup of blue cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, olive oil, mustard, 1 teaspoon rosemary, pepper, and salt. Add the egg yolk and whisk until combined. Add the potatoes and shallot to the cheese mixture and stir until the potatoes are thoroughly covered.

Pile the filling in the center of the dough. Spread it an even layer, leaving a 2″ border on all sides. Sprinkle the rest of the blue cheese, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, and the rest of the rosemary over the filling.

Fold one long side of the dough about 1-1/2″ over the filling. Do the same thing on the other long side of the tart. Fold in the short sides of the dough and overlap the corners to secure the dough. Lightly beat the egg white and brush it all over the folded crust. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan cheese all over the crust.

Bake until the crust and filling are golden brown and the potatoes test done when poked with a fork, about 45 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack, and let the tart cool for about 10 minutes. Use a metal spatula to loosen the tart from the parchment paper and slide it onto the wire rack. Let tart cool until warm, then slice and serve.

from Cook’s Country, December / January 2020 

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Birthday Beans

Andy loves baked beans. I’m talking a level of love that most people reserve for chocolate. Or coffee on Monday mornings. In fact, he once bought a 10-pound can of baked beans for himself because “they were the best deal per ounce” and “who wouldn’t want that many beans!?”

So, when Andy saw Bridget and Julia making these beans, he was interested right away. I wasn’t opposed to the dish (I mean, there’s brats and bacon in it), but I didn’t catch all of the ingredients and steps during the TV episode. I didn’t write it down, so I moved on to other recipes.

Luckily for Andy, our PBS channel airs a lot of reruns, and we happened to catch the same episode again. This time, I took notes, and waited for the right time to make a batch of beans large enough to feed an army. Late January rolled around, and when I asked Andy what he wanted for his birthday, these beans were at the top of his list. I’m a big proponent of eating what you want for your birthday (even it’s boring vanilla ice cream), so I was all in for birthday beans.

Andy, of course, loved them. So did Arron and Karen. I enjoyed them too, and the four of us did our best to put a dent in 116 ounces of beans. In fact, we liked them so much that I made them a few weeks later to share with Janelle and Josiah (and all of the kids) too. They were a hit again, and even after feeding six adults and 12 children, we still had a decent amount left over. (To be fair, we also ate pork roast, mac and cheese, salad and bread that night, but still…) 

So, this makes a ton of beans, obviously. OK, not a literal ton, and maybe I should have realized that by the ingredient list, but still. It filled every inch of my 9″ x 13″ pan. It’s a good thing that I took Bridget’s advice and put the pan on a cookie sheet before it went in the oven, otherwise I’d been cleaning baked bean sauce off of the bottom of my oven.

It’s very obvious that this recipe comes from the Cook’s Country side of America’s Test Kitchen, instead of the Cook’s Illustrated side. First of all, it calls for canned beans. And not just cans of plain beans. You use two cans of prepared baked beans and a can of Ro-tel. Then there’s the sauce. It’s part ketchup and part prepared barbecue sauce, plus some spices and other items. Finally, it’s super easy to put together, which, as most people know, is not always the case with recipes from CI.

Easy beans with lots of brats and bacon? That’s a birthday win for sure.

BBQBeans

Backyard Barbecue Beans 

1 1/4 pounds of bratwurst, casing removed
2 onions, chopped
2 28 ounce cans of baked beans (CC used Bush’s; I’ve used both Bush’s and Aldi’s baked beans with good results.)
2 15 ounce cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 15 ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 10 ounce can of Ro-Tel tomatoes
6 slices thick-cut bacon

For the sauce: 
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Brown the brats in a 12″ skillet (you guessed it; I used my Lodge again), breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon. When the meat is almost completely browned, add the onions to the pan and cook until both the onions and the brats are nice and brown.

While the brats and onion are browning, cut the bacon into 1″ pieces and set them aside. Preheat your oven to 350°.

Whisk the sauce ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the brats and onions to the bowl, and stir to combine. Add the Ro-Tel and the beans to the bowl, and gently stir to combine all of the ingredients.

Pour the bean mixture into a straight-sided 9″ x 13″ metal baking pan. (Trust me on this one. Your glass 9″ x 13″ Pyrex dish will not have enough room for all of the beans, meat, and sauce.) Lay the bacon pieces over the top of the beans in an even, single layer. (It always looks like there won’t be enough bacon to cover the entire pan, but it’s worked out perfectly both times I’ve made this. Trust the source.) 

Place the baking pan on a rimmed baking sheet, and baked for 90 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool 15 minutes before serving.

From Cook’s Country

Click here for a printable version.

My Kind of Salad

I don’t know if this is a regional dish, or if they appear at holiday dinners everywhere, but I grew up with what my family calls “24-hour salad” at almost every holiday meal.

You mix canned fruit and mini marshmallows in a bowl, then sprinkle instant pudding mix over the entire thing. Stir in a container of Cool Whip, and then stick it in the fridge overnight. Bam! Holiday side complete. And since it’s a salad, you can eat it alongside your ham AND have seconds before dessert even appears. What’s not to love?

Oh, right. Things like instant pudding and Cool Whip. Don’t get me wrong; I still enjoy a generous serving of 24-hour salad at Thanksgiving or Christmas. But if a more “homemade” option exists, I’ll try that too. 🙂

I stumbled on this recipe last fall when Karen, Janelle and I were planning our Friendsgiving 2.0 menu. I was immediately intrigued. It looked like a cranberry version of the traditional 24-hour salad, and it used real whipped cream instead of Cool Whip. I had a stockpile of cranberries in the freezer, and I almost always have whipping cream in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, the salad got scratched from the Friendsgiving menu because we had SO MUCH FOOD.

I didn’t forget about the recipe though. As I started planning our Easter menu, I knew I wanted to try the cranberry salad. And since we were having people over for dinner, I knew we wouldn’t have to eat the entire bowl ourselves.

I used my food processor to chop the cranberries and walnuts (not together though). After that, I simply mixed everything together and put it in the fridge. Right before dinner, I whipped the cream and folded it into the cranberries. It was probably the easiest part of the meal. It was one of the tastiest parts too. I definitely went back for seconds and thirds on salad.

One of the downsides to this recipe, if there is one, is that it doesn’t keep nearly as well. The whipped cream starts to separate and get soggy after a day in the fridge, so you should plan on eating it all in one sitting. Good thing it’s always OK to have more salad.

CreamyCranberrySalad

Creamy Cranberry Salad

3 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
1 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups of mini marshmallows
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups of heavy whipping cream

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cranberries, pineapple, apple, sugar, salt and marshmallows. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream and walnuts into the cranberry mixture. Serve immediately.

From Taste of Home

Click here for a printable version.

The Perfect Summer Side

Ah, summer. The season of picnics and cookouts, graduation parties and camping trips. You know what all of those things have in common? Food! Whatever’s happening, people need to eat, right? And most of the time, there will be pasta salad on the table. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s drowning in mayo and isn’t so good. Sometimes, much to Andy’s dismay, it’s the only side dish at the party.

Unless, of course, this pasta salad is available. It’s so good that Andy (who says pasta salad makes him gag), eats more than just a polite serving. He goes back for seconds and thirds. And then he raids the fridge for the leftovers.

The first time I tried it, I was amazed  that something so simple could be so delicious. It’s just orzo, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh basil, feta and dried cherries, with some greens thrown in for good measure. My friend Bethany made it for a get-together, and wow. It was summer loving at first bite for me. Clearly, this was something special.

Like any good summer salad, this one is easy to throw together. It tastes good straight out of the fridge or at room temperature. I can’t decide if it’s the basil, the cherries or the feta that puts this one over the top. Maybe it’s all three together, in a trifecta of awesomeness.

I didn’t have arugula on hand, but I’d gotten a bunch of Swiss chard in our CSA the week beforehand, so I figured that would work out OK. I ended up sauteing the stems and then the chopped leaves, since I think they’re a little tough and chewy raw. It didn’t take that much longer, and it gave me something to do while I waited for the pasta to cool. Good thing too. Otherwise I might have eaten all of the feta before it made its way into the salad. 😉

I almost skipped the pine nuts because they were ridiculously expensive in my grocery store but decided to splurge when I found a slightly cheaper package of them. I used some of my awesome Italian olive oil from Andy’s brother, Dan, and I think it really made a difference in the end result. So if you have the good stuff, this is the time to break it out. And then you may want to keep it out, since you’ll probably need to make a second batch to take to a picnic or something.

OrzoPastaSalad

Tri-Color Pasta Salad

1 lb. uncooked orzo pasta
3 tablespoons plus up to 1/4 cup of olive oil, divided
2 cups chopped greens (arugula, spinach or Swiss chard)
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup dried cherries
12 fresh basil leaves, torn
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (I didn’t measure this.) 
1 teaspoon pepper  (Again, I didn’t measure.)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, then drain the pasta and quickly rinse it with cool water.

Spread the cooked pasta in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with three tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside to cool.

While the pasta cools, prepare the rest of the salad.

If you’re using Swiss chard, separate the stems from the leaves and chop the stems into 1/4″ pieces. Add some olive oil to a large skillet and saute the stems until they are crisp tender. Chop the leaves into bite-sized / manageable pieces and then add them to the skillet when the stems are almost done. Take the pan off the heat.

If you’re using spinach or arugula, simply wash the leaves and tear them into bite-sized pieces.

Place the greens in a large bowl and then add the pine nuts, cherries, basil and feta cheese. Scrape the orzo into the bowl and add the lemon juice. Gently mixed until everything is well-distributed. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil (up to 1/4 cup) until the pasta is well-coated and doesn’t appear dry. Mix everything one more time, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve cold or at room temperature. Hide store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

From my friend Bethany

Click here for a printable version.

Too Good To Be Seasonal

I know, I know. This post is six months too late or too early, depending on your perspective. But really, who says you can only enjoy stuffing on the fourth Thursday of November?

It may be a seasonal dish for some people, but it’s one of my favorite things. I love it in all forms (although I wish people would stop filling it with mushrooms), and I’m not ashamed to admit that even the Stove Top variety holds a special place in my heart. In fact, my cousin and I do our very best to eat the entire bowl each Thanksgiving.

Turns out, one of my favorite bloggers agrees with me, and when I saw her recipe, I knew that I just had to try it. And once we tried it, I knew there was no way we’d only eat it one day a year.

It’s easy to make, and it goes well with practically everything. I’ve added sausage (per Deb’s note at the bottom of the recipe) and called it dinner. (I’m sure I served it with a salad for balance, of course.) It’s a great way to use up the stray pieces of celery that get lost in the bottom of the crisper drawer (or the apple that’s on its last legs). And, thanks to my ever-growing cast iron obsession, I realized that I could make it in my  skillet, save a dish and have it look pretty at the table (or on the kitchen counter).

AppleHerbStuffing
OK, so it’s technically dressing, since it’s not “stuffed” in anything before baking. Potato, potah-to. 😉

Apple Herb Stuffing

6 cups of torn bread chunks, I typically use French bread
4-5 tablespoons unsalted butter (4 if you’re baking the stuffing in a cast-iron skillet; 5 if you need to prepare a separate baking dish)
1 large onion, sweet if you have one, regular if not, finely chopped
1 large stalk of celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or a scant 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon table salt, plus more to taste
fresh ground black pepper
1 large or 2 small tart apples, peeled and finely diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 fresh sage leaves, minced, or a generous pinch dried sage
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350° and make sure that the oven rack is in the center position.

Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the bread is lightly golden, about 15-20 minutes, stirring every so often. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool while you prepare the rest of the stuffing.

If using a separate baking dish, butter a one-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter. If you plan to bake your stuffing in the same pan that you’ll cook the vegetables in, skip this step. (Cast iron for the win! We are all about streamlining things over here. Ha!)

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the celery and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the apple to the skillet and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Place the bread in a large mixing bowl and scrape the contents of the skillet on top of the crumbs. Whisk the egg and 1/2 cup of stock together in a glass measuring cup and pour it over the bread crumb mixture. Stir in the parsley and sage and mix until just combined.

If you’re baking the stuffing in your already-prepared baking dish, spoon / scrape the stuffing into your baking dish. If you’re baking it in your skillet, spoon / scrape the stuffing back into the skillet. (Deb notes that you can add an extra 1/2 cup of chicken stock if you think it looks dry, and you can also let the stuffing rest, if you’re prepping it as part of larger meal. I’ve never done either.) 

Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, or until the stuffing is golden brown on top and no liquid shows when you poke it with a knife. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

From Smitten Kitchen

Click here for a printable version.

 

Sweet Potatoes and Bacon!

So, things have been a little dessert-heavy around here lately. I feel like that always seems to happen this time of year. Our CSA is still a few months away, and it’s not light enough in the evenings to get any decent pictures of dinner. And, let’s be honest, I’ve kind of been on a dessert kick, and I don’t see that ending any time soon. In an attempt to keep things balanced, I figured I’d talk about the sweet potatoes that I made for our Easter dinner. 😉

I actually first made these for Friendsgiving. I spent a lot of time flipping through cookbooks and magazines, searching for the perfect dishes to round out the menu. Sweet potatoes aren’t usually my first choice when it comes to sides (mostly because I like white potatoes better), but when I saw the picture in the Thanksgiving issue of Southern Living, I was immediately interested. And with good reason, too. I mean, there’s bacon, after all. Do I really need to say more?

Fine. It’s also super easy, AND it cooks in the crock pot. This means that you can get the potatoes going before church and come home to a great lunch, or free up stove / oven space during a big meal. Of course, it’s one of those crock pot recipes that only cooks for 4 hours, so unless you have one of those fancy crock pots with a timer, it’s not ideal for a workday meal.

Frozen concentrate isn’t an ingredient that I typically have on hand, but since the unused portion keeps well in the freezer (obviously), I figured  I could just use keep the extra for another batch. As long as we liked them, anyway. Which we did. So much so, in fact, that I made the full batch for Easter, even though it was just the two of us.

CrockpotSweetPotatoes
The picture won’t win any food blogger photo awards, but you can only take pictures for so long before you give in and eat the food. 🙂

 

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

4 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ thick slices
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 cooked bacon slices, crumbled

Place the sliced sweet potatoes in a 5-6 quart crock pot.

Mix the concentrate, butter, brown sugar and salt together and pour the mixture over the potatoes. Stir the potatoes until they are well-coated with the butter/sugar/concentrate mixture.

Place the lid on the crock pot and cook on low for about 4 hours, or until potatoes are tender. (The original recipe says to cook for 5-6 hours, but I found that the longer time turned the potatoes into mush. Maybe my crock pot runs hot?) 

When the potatoes are tender, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a serving dish. Whisk the cornstarch and water together, and then whisk it into the juice in the bottom of the crock pot. Turn the crock pot temperature to high and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the potatoes.

In a small bowl, combine the parsley, orange zest and garlic. Sprinkle the parsley mixture over the potatoes and top with the crumbled bacon. Serve warm.

From Southern Living, November 2015

Click here for a printable version.

Spontaneous Success!

Let me start by admitting that I did not plan for this one. Aldi had a sale on mangoes last week, so I violated grocery shopping rule #1 (STICK TO THE LIST!) and put one in the cart. I had no idea what I’d do with it, but 69-cent mangoes are not to be passed up.

Not only did I go off-list at the grocery store, but I also slacked off on the meal planning for the week. I put the fun important things down (dinner with friends Monday night and tacos with friends on Friday night), but that left me with three dinner-less days, and man cannot (or should not) live on Christmas cookies alone. (Not that we aren’t giving it our best shot… 😉 )  And then Andy went on a last-minute work trip, which kind of killed the meal-planning motivation. I would just scrounge up something with what was in the house.

Hmm. One mango. Roughly half of a head of Napa cabbage from our last CSA share (Don’t be grossed out by that. I promise it was still good. Those produce saver bags are AMAZING.) Limes. Onions. Hmm.

Smitten Kitchen to the rescue again! This slaw was incredibly addicting. It was sweet (from the mango), sour (from the lime) and spicy (not sure if it was the red pepper flakes or my red onion) all at the same time. I subbed green pepper for the red pepper (because that’s what I had in the fridge). I didn’t have mint or cashews, so I toasted some almonds and chopped up some cilantro instead.

I was going to cook some shrimp to go with it, but, as I said before, my motivation was dwindling. Plus, I was kind of going to town on the slaw, so I decided to make a meal out of just that. And then I ate the rest for lunch the next day. Like I said, addicting. Good thing Andy was gone so I didn’t have to share. 😉

MangoSlaw

Cabbage & Mango Slaw

1 pound of Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1-2 mangoes, thinly sliced (Deb’s recipe calls for 2 mangoes. I only had one on hand, but I would definitely go for 2. More mango is never a bad thing.) 
1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced
1/3 of a large red onion, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Combine the cabbage, mangoes, green pepper and red onion in a large bowl.

Whisk the lime juice, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and oil together in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and add the cilantro to the bowl. Toss the salad a few times to make sure the dressing is well-distributed.

Just before serving, sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Click here for a printable version.

Our Kind of Coleslaw

As a kid, I was staunchly opposed to mayo. I knew it had its place in tuna salad, but I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why anyone would want it on a sandwich or a burger. And those people who dip their french fries in mayonnaise? Ugh. Not for me, thank you very much.

Of course, this meant that I avoided coleslaw like the plague. Soggy, shredded cabbage and carrots drowning in a mayonnaise bath? Umm, no thanks. When I finally grew up matured, I realized that mayo isn’t nearly as terrible as my 10-year-old taste buds had feared. (Not that it’s my favorite condiment – that spot is reserved for mustards of all types.) But I didn’t hate it anymore, and I could appreciate a traditional coleslaw for what it was.

Andy on the hand? Not so much. He still hasn’t outgrown his distaste for mayonnaise (and at his age, I’m guessing that it may never happen), which meant that for the first few years of our marriage, I didn’t make coleslaw. Not that this was an issue – after all, neither of us had a burning desire for the stuff. Then we joined a CSA, which meant that all kinds of vegetables ended up in our kitchen. And when your CSA cabbages regularly come in weighing more than some newborns, you realize that you’d better come up with something to do with ALL.THAT.CABBAGE. (Besides the ever-popular cabbage and noodles, that is.)

Thankfully, friends of ours introduced us to fish tacos, and with them, a vinegar-based slaw. I don’t know why I never thought of it before, but that’s when I realized that coleslaw could be more than just mayo and soggy veggies. And Andy liked it! So, I asked Josiah for his recipe, and I started making slaw whenever we had fish tacos. Pretty soon, I was making slaw just because we had a cabbage in the house. No problems, right?

Well… I kind of get bored if I make the same thing over and over again. Not that you’d ever guess that, right? 😉 I needed a new slaw in the rotation, and thankfully, my favorite cookbook came through for me. Again.

It’s like coleslaw and my favorite “quick pickles” got together for a party.There’s the tang from the vinegar and the crunch of the fresh cucumbers and cabbage.  I made it for a work picnic earlier this summer, and then I made it again just because we had all of the ingredients in the fridge. It’s crisp and refreshing, and it goes well with brats and burgers, making it the perfect summer side. It’s easy to put together, which means that I can make it in the morning before work and have one less thing to do at the end of the day when I’m making dinner. It keeps well in the fridge, and I also think it would travel well in the cooler, which means I need to buy some more vinegar before our camping adventures at the end of the month.

CucumberVinegarSlaw
This is all that was left 24 hours after I’d made the coleslaw, thanks to Andy sitting down and eating it straight from the serving bowl while I prepped the rest of dinner. 😉

 

Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers and Dill

1 medium head of cabbage, about 2 pounds, thinly sliced or shredded (I used about 2/3rds of a CSA cabbage clocked in at 3+ pounds.)
2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced (Deb says to use English cucumbers; I used the regular seeded ones that came in our CSA.) 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (I used half fresh and half dried, since my dill plant isn’t as prolific as I’d like.) 
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons kosher salt*
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup cold water

In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers,dill and shredded cabbage together.

In a 2-cup measuring cup, whisk the vinegar, salt and sugar together. When the sugar and salt have dissolved, add the cold water to the mix. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss the salad with a pair of tongs.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour, tossing occasionally to distribute the dressing. Serve cold.

*Deb recommends the Diamond brand kosher salt and says that other brands are going to be “more densely salty.” I used a heaping tablespoon of my Morton brand kosher salt, so I’d recommend starting with a tablespoon and seeing how it tastes from there. 

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

Click here for a printable version.

Putting My Spin On Things

Like dips, pasta salads aren’t something I make very often. Since only 50% of our household enjoys it, I usually opt for other pasta dishes. I don’t even make it for potlucks because, “what if EVERYONE makes pasta salad and that’s the ONLY thing at the party?!” (In Andy’s defense, this did happen once… seven years ago. He still hasn’t let me forget it.)

But when I started looking for a different way to prepare asparagus (because variety is the spice of my life), I stumbled on the idea of an asparagus salad. And then I realized that if I bulked it up with some pasta, I could get away with only making one dish for dinner. Plus, if I served it warm and called it “pasta with asparagus and feta,” Andy probably wouldn’t associate it with the chilled, mayo-slicked salads that give him flashbacks to that fateful day in 2008. It’s all in how you spin things. 😉

I made a couple changes to the original recipe. I added pasta (obviously). I roasted the asparagus since our grill is on the fritz, and I upped the lemon, adding the zest and juice from an entire lemon. I used my “good” Italian olive oil from my brother-in-law to finish off the dish, since its flavor would come through. We enjoyed it warm the first night, and I liked the leftovers at room temperature as well.

LemonAsparagusFetaPasta

 

Lemon Asparagus Pasta Salad with Feta 

1 lb. of asparagus spears
8 ounces uncooked short pasta
zest and juice of one lemon
olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup feta cheese
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet with olive oil. Wash the asparagus and trim off the tough, woody ends. Cut the asparagus spears into 3″ long pieces. Place the asparagus pieces in a large bowl and drizzle them with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Place the minced garlic in the bowl and toss to combine.

Spread the asparagus in an even layer on the baking sheet and roast until golden brown in spots, about 12 minutes. Hang on to the bowl – you’ll use it to mix everything together at the end.

While the asparagus is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and place it in the bowl you tossed the asparagus in earlier. Zest the lemon and squeeze the juice over the cooked pasta. When the asparagus is done, remove it from the oven and add the asparagus to the pasta. Scrape any garlicky oil from the pan into the bowl with the pasta.

Mix the feta cheese in with the pasta. If the mixture seems too dry, add another tablespoon or so of olive oil to the  bowl. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Adapted from Once Upon a Chef

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Garlic + Parm + Potatoes

Mashed potatoes. Come on, who needs a recipe for mashed potatoes? You cook the spuds, add some butter and milk (and sour cream and cheese, if you’re feeling indulgent), and season with salt and pepper. What’s to know?

A lot, according to my latest copy of Cook’s Illustrated. I was reading the article about a French apple tart (looks beautiful, but I think it will take all day just to slice the apples for it!) when I noticed the recipe on the preceding page: Parmesan Garlic Mashed Potatoes. The potato recipe looked significantly less involved than the tart recipe, plus, I had everything to make it. On the menu it went!

It goes without saying that since it’s a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, it’s more involved than your standard potato recipe. I did question some things in the recipe (such as why I have to cut the butter into chunks when I’m melting it anyway…), but since CI has tested for practically every scenario, I stuck to the recipe. For the most part, anyway. I saw no reason to pour the melted butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese from the saucepan into a separate bowl before then pouring it into the potatoes. They may have a dedicated dish crew, but I am not that lucky. 🙂 (I do appreciate all of the testing and science behind their recipes though. I definitely learn something from each issue – even if I don’t get around to making all of the recipes.) 

Extra steps or not, it was worth it. The recipe says it feeds 4-6 people as a side dish, but I could have skipped the rest of dinner and just had potatoes. I hoarded the leftovers. (Sorry to all of my coworkers for making the office smell like garlic!) I licked the spatula and the potato masher clean. (OK, so I do that anytime I make mashed potatoes… let’s not get hung up on the details…) If I were making the potatoes for Thanksgiving, these would definitely be on my short list. But since I’m not in charge of the spuds (to my knowledge, anyway), I’ll just make these for other special occasions. You know, like Tuesday dinners. 😀

Garlic Parm Mashed Potatoes

Parmesan Garlic Mashed Potatoes

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ thick chunks (CI recommends Yukon Golds; I just used the white potatoes from my Grandma.)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, mixed with 1/2 teaspoon water
1 1/4 teaspoons garlic, zested/minced into a paste, divided
2/3 cup warm milk
1 1/2 ounces (3/4 cup) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
parsley, for garnish (optional)

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add water until potatoes are covered with 1″ of water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes) and pierce easily with a paring knife. Remove from heat and drain the potatoes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic powder/water mixture and 1 teaspoon of minced garlic to the butter and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in Parmesan cheese, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of garlic and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.

Place the potato saucepan back on the stove over low heat. Add the potatoes to the pot and mash them. (Cook’s Illustrated recommends using a potato rice, but since I don’t own one, I just used my hand masher.) Stir the butter-Parmesan mixture into the mashed potatoes. Pour the milk into the potatoes and stir until combined. Taste the potatoes and season with salt, if necessary. (I added a scant 1/2 teaspoon to the mixture… significantly less than the 1 1/4 teaspoons that CI recommended.) Transfer the potatoes to a serving dish and top with parsley, if using. Serve immediately. (Unless the rest of your dinner isn’t ready yet. If that’s the case, simply cover the potatoes with foil and place in a warm oven.) 

From Cook’s Illustrated, December 2014

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