In honor of National Wine Day – pick your own house wine

Several years ago I decided to undertake a wine cork project just as most craft inclined drinkers have.  It was a wine cork wreath modeled after a cute one I saw at Screwtop Wine Bar in Arlington, VA.  Thinking that I couldn’t drink enough wine to produce that many corks in time

The dreaded cork project complete

The dreaded cork project complete

for the holidays I enlisted my mom to save her corks too.  When I got her rather impressive sized bag of corks I noticed that 75 percent of them were from the same bottles.  When asked she casually explained that those were her “house wines.”  Brilliant!  Only my mother would know to appropriate such a term and make it so chic in her own home.  Pick one red and one white that you really like, doesn’t have to be expensive, actually better that it’s not, that goes with most things and stock up.  Then you will always have a bottle or two squirreled away that you can pull out for guests and not have to worry.  Also over time people sort of naturally start to associate your home with that wine, good food, fun memories and being well taken care of.  Like a good restaurant if the customers leave happy and full you are likely to have them back.  Now for those of you who associate “house wine” with jammy yucky stuff poured out of a jug please know that I am referring to is akin to the lovely wine usually sold by the carafe in France or Italy.  This stuff is just amazing, local and so cheap.  More and more American restaurants are getting into this notion, especially with the advent of wine on draft so I suspect house wines will be coming to more menus over time.  If it helps think about the wines sold by the glass sold at your favorite restaurants.  Sommiliers always suggest you look towards that list if you are unfamiliar with wine or are

And yet another wine craft

And yet another wine craft

nervous about what to order by the bottle because usually its a list of wines that are easy to drink, not outrageously priced and tasty.  The theory being that if something isn’t well liked they won’t sell enough of it to warrant selling it by the glass and it will disappear from the list.  Ok if I have sold you on having your own house wine the logical next question is – which ones?  Well of course you should pick wines that you really like but also make sure they are crowd pleasers.  Don’t pick anything too strong or controversial (looking at you oaky chardonnays and heavy cabs).  My advice is go to a place with a good selection of mid priced wines and buy a bunch to try.  This kind of research is pretty fun so enlist some friends and figure out the crowd favorite.

wpid-20150520_190316.jpgFor my white selection I totally cheated and picked my Mom’s.  For years we just called it the “green wine” and still do – but its official ridiculously long name is Les Costieres de Pomerols Hugues Beaulieu Picpoul de Pinet.  Years after we started drinking it we discovered that the Inn at Little Washington serves it so we must be doing something right.  It’s light, with a hint of citrus and is delicious on its own (especially when its hot) or with food.  The bottle is just so French and gorgeous – how about that color???  Also the price is right – in D.C. I can find it for $8 a bottle at most Whole Foods and Wegman’s but you can also get it on sale sometimes at World Market or Total Wine dropping the price as low as $6 a bottle.  In Boston it seems to go for a bit more but for a French import you really cannot ask for anything better.  Some of you may have noticed that it has a screw top – this is a recent change and one I embrace.  Don’t turn your nose up at screw tops – they actually keep oxygen (the enemy of wine) out better than cork.

For reds I just sort of instinctively go towards Italy – their lush, balanced reds are so drinkable.  If I had the budget people would be drinking barolos every time they come over but alas it’s not to be.  I haven’t quite picked the perfect one yet but there are a couple of contenders at Trader Joes.  So celebrate National Wine Day and kick back and have a glass or two – I just heard the pop of a bottle of bubbly that I am going to share with my BFF.  I hope everyone has a great long weekend – let me know if you end up picking your own house wines so I can add them to my cellar.

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Mexican Marinated Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin is the perfect protein – low in fat, quick cooking, hell they are even portion controlled so you can easily scale up or down.  Grilled, roasted, pan sautéed in medallions, stir fried in strips or cubed in stews there is just nothing this piggie cannot do.  I am not a huge fan of pork chops as I find they dry out and can become tough really easily.  Same can be said for pork tenderloin if you aren’t careful but an easy way to hedge against that is to marinate the pork, which will not only give it flavor but often help tenderize the meat and make it less tough (especially if there is acid involved as there is in this recipe).  Again you should view this as a method not a fixed list of ingredients.  For fiesta friday I made this with lime juice and chili powder but you could easily turn this italian with balsamic vinegar and garlic or greek with lemon juice and oregano.  Basically if you have some acid, ingredients that add a good flavor punch, some oil and a plastic baggie you are good to go.  Also please don’t be a snob about the gallon plastic bag – it’s not Pinterest worthy or stylish but it gets the job done, actually ensures that all of the meat gets marinated and what is better than disposable??

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I served this alongside last week’s quinoa salad which was delicious but it would also be great with an avocado and onion salad, chopped up and thrown into tortillas for tacos or quesadillas or sliced thinly on a taco salad.

Mexican Marinated Pork Tenderloin (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  easy street
Special Equipment:  plastic gallon sized baggie, meat thermometer

  • 1 pork tenderloin (or 8, honestly you can increase this to as many as your baggie can hold)
  • the juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated or minced finely
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (I had guajillo on hand but any kind or generic will do)

Put pork and all the ingredients in a plastic baggie, close the top pressing out as much air as possible and squishing everything together.  Marinate for 45 minutes to up to 2 hours.  You could do it for longer if you needed to but the lime juice can start to break down the proteins in the pork after too long and it will get mushy.  Sweet spot is about an hour – you can leave it at room temp in the baggie to marinate since you don’t want to throw a cold tenderloin on the grill anyway.  When you are ready to cook, heat a grill or grill pan on high and when hot pull the tenderloin out of the baggie, shake off excess marinate and throw on the grill.

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Grill for about 15-20 minutes depending on how big a tenderloin it is, turning every 5 minutes to get char on all sides.  A meat thermometer should read about 140 degrees.  Take off the grill and let rest under tin foil for about 5 minutes then slice and serve.

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Mexican Marinated Pork Tenderloin

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 1 hour to marinate plus 20 minutes cooking
  • Print

Special Equipment:  plastic gallon sized baggie, meat thermometer

  • 1 pork tenderloin (or 8, honestly you can increase this to as many as your baggie can hold)
  • the juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (I had guajillo on hand but any kind or generic will do)

Put pork and all the ingredients in a plastic baggie, close the top pressing out as much air as possible and squishing everything together.  Marinate for 45 minutes to up to 2 hours.  You could do it for longer if you needed to but the lime juice can start to break down the proteins in the pork after a while and it will get mushy.  Sweet spot is about an hour – you can leave it at room temp in the baggie to marinate since you don’t want to throw a cold tenderloin on the grill anyway.  When you are ready to cook heat a grill or grill pan on high and when hot pull the tenderloin out of the baggie, shake off excess marinate and throw on the grill.  Grill for about 15-20 minutes depending on how big a tenderloin it is, turning every 5 minutes to get char on all sides.  A meat thermometer should read about 140 degrees.  Take off the grill and let rest under tin foil for about 5 minutes then slice and serve.

Peep my pantry

Andrew, a good friend and also our real estate agent, says the moment he knew we were going to buy our house was when Patrick saw the deck and when I saw the pantry.  He is right – it was love at first sight.  It didn’t hurt DSC04473that the kitchen it was attached to was also beautiful but after living in tiny cramped apartments with galley kitchens for years the thought of an honest to goodness pantry stopped my heart cold.  Even before we moved in I was already at Home Goods buying clear glass containers with images of perfectly coordinated dried goods dancing in my head.  The girl who has been reading Martha Stewart magazine since she was in elementary school designed and redesigned what these magical shelves would look like.  The reality is a bit less adorable and more practical – though I did get me a lot of those glass containers.  A pantry is meant to be used and cannot just hold artisanal olive oils and dried apricots (for color of course) but also has to house the industrial jar of Skippy and packets of Equal.  One must be realistic about your family, lifestyle and the kind of cooking you do as well as space constraints.  I have the luxury of buying random jars and bottles that catch my eye at ethnic markets without the first clue of what to use them in because I have the space.  If you don’t be choosy and just keep on hand the necessities.  Think about how you eat – do you do a lot of whole grains?  Then it makes sense to buy wheat berries in bulk and keep them in a large refillable container.  Are you a baker?  Then it’s not unreasonable to have 3 or 4 types of flours in hand to bake with (and yes you can tell your spouse I said so).

No matter what size your pantry is (and let’s be honest for most people its half of one cabinet in your kitchen) you should arm yourself with key ingredients so that you can easily pick up one or two things at the store and be able to create a whole meal off of what you already have on hand.  This makes life easier at the grocery store and for those times where you get really stuck – sick kid, snow storm, Scandal marathon that you don’t want to leave the house for – and just want to make something easily.  Here are some suggested lists of what would be helpful to have on hand.  Remember – this is all personal so don’t go out and buy things willy nilly, use this as a guide to think about what you already have and what you could probably do without or what you could augment your existing stock.  Once you start cooking a ton or stubble across the dream pantry then you can buy all the pomegranate molasses and rice flour to your hearts content.

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General Pantry

  • olive oil for cooking and olive oil for finishing – a high quality olive oil will get ruined when cooked with so just use the good (i.e. expensive) stuff for dressings etc.  I get amazing quality stuff imported straight from Italy at A. Litteri in D.C.
  • vegetable or canola oil
  • a variety of vinegars – I have sherry, red wine, white wine, balsamic, apple cider and rice wine but try a bunch and see which works for you
  • dried pasta – I like De Cecco
  • rice – I keep basmati, aborrio (the kind for risotto), and brown rice
  • couscous
  • whole grains – I like farro or wheatberries
  • breadcrumbs (regular and panko if you have the space)
  • honey – good quality honey makes all the difference.  Discovered Savannah Bee Company when I was in GA and love it for baking and with cheese)
  • soy sauce – go low sodium if you have the choice
  • fish sauce
  • sesame oil
  • agave
  • polenta (and grits if you live south of the Mason Dixon)
  • canned beans – I always have black beans, chickpeas and cannellinis
  • boxed chicken and beef stock – I usually use my own chicken broth but its good to have on hand in a pinch
  • cornstarch (for baking and also to thicken sauces)
  • cooking spray like Pam
  • spices (this could be a whole post but have on hand what you find you use most and toss after a year or so.  I just counted mine and I have 73 so that’s probably not for everyone)

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For the bakers:

  • all purpose flour
  • granulated sugar
  • light or dark brown sugar (trust me you can really use these interchangeably)
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • good vanilla extract – I use Nielsen Massey, pricey but lasts forever
  • chocolate chips/baking chocolate
  • espresso powder
  • cocoa powder
  • oats
  • cupcake liners

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In the fridge

  • dijon and whole grain mustard – Grey Poupon is the standard for a reason and for whole grain Les Trios Petits Cochons just blows the competition away
  • hot sauce – Patrick has a collection of over a dozen but my favorite is Devil’s Duel from Syracuse, NY
  • tahini – great for making hummus and all sorts of mediterranean dishes, also lasts forever
  • hoisin sauce
  • garlic chili sauce like this
  • jams for meat glazes or baking
  • maple syrup – I am lucky enough to get incredible maple syrup made by a dear family friend Beverly at her sugar farm Erabliere De Winter in Canada.  Just make sure to get high quality sttuff and please no fakes!
  • anchovy paste
  • mayo
  • walnuts, pine nuts, pecans (if you keep them in the fridge they won’t spoil – key for those of us who live in hot climates)
  • greek yogurt

Ok so what do you all keep on hand?  Did I miss a staple in your house??  This is the first of a series of posts on the best ingredients, tools, and party gear to have to make cooking and entertaining fun and easy.  Let me know what else you would like to “peep.”

Brownie Soufflé

There really isn’t a bad way to eat brownies – brownie bites, brownie cookies, brownie sundaes, brownie crisps etc etc.  One of my deep dark secrets is that I even make boxed brownies on occasion – sometimes you just need a fix and they don’t have to be made with high end Valrhona chocolate to be good.  This recipe is terrific because it serves a crowd but looks a bit more high end then just cutting regular bar brownies and putting them on a plate (though admittedly it’s still not the prettiest dessert as the photos can attest – trust me you wont care when you are eating it).

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If you like to lick the beaters then you are going to love this recipe – the edges get crunchy and baked and the middle stays nice and gooey so it’s practically warmed batter.  I also love that the ingredients are all pretty basic – if you have a decent baker’s pantry then you probably have them all on hand.  You can make it ahead but I would do it day of, any longer than that you will lose the distinction between the crunchy and gooey bits.  This is the ultimate comfort food and right now I need a little comfort as two of the people who supported me most in this endeavor are moving on to bigger and better things in Denver.  Dave and Ashley (and little Eliza) are terrific friends who are always willing to try my menu experiments, pushed me to create this blog, see boundless opportunities around every turn and are fearful of nothing.  They have been an incredible inspiration to me and many others and while D.C. will be sad to lose them I am super excited to see what Colorado holds in store.  Heck it might even inspire a cooking at high altitude post!  So all the best to them and now I can drown my sorrows in this lovely brownie goodness.

Brownie Soufflé (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   Brownie Pudding by Ina Garten

Special Equipment: large roasting pan

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the original recipe calls for the seeds of a vanilla bean but that is more expensive, hard to find and frankly I like the extract better)
  • 1 tablespoon framboise liqueur (or coffee)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 2-quart (9 by 12 by 2-inch) oval or rectangle baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.  Cut up the two sticks of butter, place in a microwave safe bowl and melt it in bursts of 20-30 seconds until melted.  Let cool.  In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (or you can always use a regular hand mixer in a large bowl) beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 8 minutes.  This is why a stand mixer can be really helpful – 8 minutes is a long time to hold a mixer!  However, this is a necessary step, you want the eggs to be very light, almost white and thick.  In a smaller bowl mix the cocoa and flour with a whisk and set aside.
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With the mixer on low add the vanilla extract and framboise (or coffee).  Ina suggests the framboise and it really is quite good – you don’t necessarily taste any raspberry flavor but it adds depth.  Understanding that most people don’t have that on hand some cold coffee would be good and bring the same complexity.  Then add the cocoa powder and flour.  Be careful not to over mix here, just blend until incorporated.  Add the butter and mix until everything is combined.

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Pour the batter into the dish and then place it in a large roasting pan.  I use my turkey roasting pan – basically you need something large enough to accommodate your baking dish along with several inches of water (i.e. a baking sheet won’t work).  Use hot water from a tea kettle or the tap and then carefully pour water into the roasting pan so that the water level comes up about halfway up the side of the baking dish.

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This is called a water bath and something you may be familiar with if you have ever cooked flan or creme brulee.  The water helps keep the heat even without baking the brownie mix all the way through and the water helps create steam in the oven which keeps whatever you are cooking from drying out.  Try not to spill any water in the actual brownie batter but if you don’t it’s not a huge deal.  Bake for an hour.  You can test for doneness with a toothpick but it’s not really necessary/helpful because it won’t come out clean – it’s not really a cake, or a pudding or a soufflé either – it’s a half-baked yummy brownie goodness.  Don’t worry if it cracks or craters – its supposed to do that and is part of the charm.  Let it cool a bit (or serve it room temperature) and serve with ice cream.

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Brownie Soufflé

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 1hour 20 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment: large roasting pan

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon framboise liqueur (or coffee)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 2-quart (9 by 12 by 2-inch) oval or rectangle baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.  Cut up the two sticks of butter, place in a microwave safe bowl and melt it in bursts of 20-30 seconds until melted.  Let cool.  In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (or you can always use a regular hand mixer in a large bowl) beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 8 minutes.  You want the eggs to be very light, almost white and thick.  In a smaller bowl mix the cocoa and flour with a whisk and set aside.

With the mixer on low add the vanilla extract and framboise (or coffee).  Then add the cocoa powder and flour.  Be careful not to over mix here, just blend until incorporated.  Add the butter and mix until everything is combined.

Pour the batter into the dish and then place it in a large roasting pan.  Use hot water from a tea kettle or the tap  and then carefully pour water into the roasting pan so that the water level comes up about halfway up the side of the baking dish.  Bake for an hour. Let it cool a bit (or serve it room temperature) and serve with ice cream.

Tex Mex Quinoa Salad

If you read food blogs as much as I do you are probably sick of quinoa…and kale…and chia seeds…and pretty much everything else über trendy and healthy.  However, there is lots of confusion out there about quinoa despite its popularity.  It is not a grain but in fact a seed.  It’s not the brainchild of Trader Joes but is what Andean cultures subsisted on over 4,000 years ago.  Extremely popular in Peru it started filtering into our collective food consciousness several years ago and started showing up on grocery store shelves.

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I have actually read that some indigenous peoples in Peru can no long eat it as part of their diet because the demand for exporting quinoa has grown so significantly.  According to the United Nations in 1970 quinoa was exported for 8 cents a kilogram.  By 2000 it was going for $1.25 a kilogram and in 2010 that doubled to $3.02!  That might account for how this little South American seed started getting used in unusual ways – a scary Pinterst search shows quinoa crust for pizza, quinoa mac and cheese, and buffalo quinoa bites!  You know you have truly made it when you enter the pantheon of pop culture – it did inspire one of the best beer commercials ever.

Don’t let the hype dissuade you – quinoa really is a terrific staple to incorporate into your menus.  It’s very high in protein, quick cooking, gluten-free and like pasta or rice it picks up the flavors of whatever it cooks with.  I like to stick to latin flavors when cooking with it and will let the rest experiment.  This salad is a great way to use up left over vegetables or frozen veggies.  If I have bell peppers that I won’t be able to cook with before they go bad I just chop them up and keep them in a plastic baggie in the freezer for a recipe like this.  There are lots of recipes out there for salads like this but this one is my own creation and is constantly evolving depending on what I have in the fridge so please view this as a method, not a hard and fast recipe.  It would be great topped with sliced avocado and served with fish tacos or with grilled pork tenderloin like I did (recipe for that will be coming next Fiesta Friday).  It also makes great leftovers that can easily be reheated in the microwave for lunch the next day.

Tex Mex Quinoa Salad (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   what’s in my fridge/freezer at the time

Special Equipment: none

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken or veggie stock, or water, or some combo of both
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or olive oil it doesn’t really matter)
  • 1 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 medium size onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (ribs and seeds removed if you don’t like heat)
  • 1/2 of a bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts chopped

Bring the stock and or water to a boil in a saucepan with a lid.  Stock will impart more flavor but not necessary by any means.  Once boiling add the quinoa, stir and cover with the lid.  Slowly decrease the heat to low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes covered.  Some kinds of quinoa recommend to rinse it in water before cooking, some don’t.  Just look at the box or bag – if it says rinse throw the quinoa in a small strainer and just run under water before adding it to the pan.  After 15 minutes turn the heat off and allow the quinoa to steam in the pot for 5 minutes before removing the lid and fluffing with a fork.

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In the meantime in a skillet heat the oil over medium heat and then add the corn, chopped onions, jalapeno, and bell pepper.  Cook for approximately 6 minutes until softened and maybe browning ever so slightly.

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Add the garlic and beans, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.  If the quinoa is done dump it into the pan and stir to combine.  If it still has a couple of minutes just turn the heat off the vegtables until ready to add the quinoa, then return the skillet to medium heat.  If the quinoa is a little wet this is a good way to get rid of the excess liquid and also help the flavors blend.  Stir in the green onions and then serve.

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Tex Mex Quinoa Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment: none

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken or veggie stock, or water, or some combo of both
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or olive oil it doesn’t really matter)
  • 1 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 medium size onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (ribs and seeds removed if you don’t like heat)
  • 1/2 of a bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts chopped

    Bring the stock and or water to a boil in a saucepan with a lid.  Once boiling add the quinoa, stir and cover with the lid.  Slowly decrease the heat to low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes covered.  After 15 minutes turn the heat off and allow the quinoa to steam in the pot for 5 minutes before removing the lid and fluffing with a fork.

    In the meantime in a skillet heat the oil over medium heat and then add the corn, chopped onions, jalapeno, and bell pepper.  Cook for approximately 6 minutes until softened and maybe browning ever so slightly.  Add the garlic and beans, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.  If the quinoa is done dump it into the pan and stir to combine.  If it still has a couple of minutes just turn the heat off until ready to add the quinoa, then return the skillet to medium heat.  If the quinoa is a little wet this is a good way to get rid of the excess liquid and also help the flavors blend.  Stir in the green onions and then serve.

Roasted Onions

Panic.  I plan and I plan but somehow every once in a while I suddenly discover I have zero vegetables to serve with dinner.  The emergency frozen spinach was used weeks ago and never replaced.  The fennel bulbs I thought would last forever did not.  Just because I married a meat and potatoes man doesn’t mean I should just serve him those without the hint of a veggie right?  That is when this side dish comes to save the day.

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Don’t consider onions a vegetable?  A quick google tells me they are high in fiber and vitamin C – sometimes that will just have to be enough (also there is parsley for the requisite green thing).  So consider this a solid, easy, vegtablish side that you can serve anytime because who doesn’t have a couple of onions sitting around?  I hew pretty close to the original recipe except I cut the olive oil in half (sorry Ina but I frequently do!).  Feel free to use all white or all red onions if that’s what you have.  Hell, go crazy and use shallots if you are into living on the edge, just make sure to cut down on the time.  Oddly enough in the cookbook version of this recipe it’s spelled out for 4-6 people but online it’s for 3.  Works for me though since I usually make half the recipe anyway but shows how easily this could be doubled or tripled for a crowd.  Just make sure your onions have lots of room on the baking sheet so they roast not steam.

This is a great side to serve along something else roasted like a chicken since you can just throw it in the oven along side.  It can also be served room temperature though I wouldn’t try to make in advance and then reheat as the vinaigrette will break down and you won’t have nice crispy roasted bits anymore.

Roasted Onions (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  Herb-Roasted Onions by Ina Garten

Special Equipment:  none needed, unless you have those silly onion glasses that keep you from crying!

Ingredients:
– 2 red onions and 1 yellow onion (or really any combo you like)
– 2 tablespoons lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
– 1 teaspoon minced garlic
– 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
– 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/2 tablespoon minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  First cut the stem end of each onion (the end that looks like a stem once came out of it, not the creepy weird hairy root end).  Then slice off the brown part of the root end, not so much that you hack off all of the root but enough that you have removed the gross inedible part (see pic – would you want to eat that??).  Peel the onion by using the tip of your knife – cut through just through the first layer and peel the onion skin back to reveal the nice clean onion.  Cut the onions in wedges through the root, I like in quarters as that ensures the wedges stay together but if they fall apart its no big deal.  Let the onions hang out on your board while you make the dressing.

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For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and thyme in a bowl large enough to hold the onions.  Terrific trick is to use your rasp/grater to grate in the garlic clove and then flip it over and use it to catch the lemon seeds as you juice over the bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, then slowly whisk in the olive oil.  Dump the onions into the bowl and toss with the dressing.

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With a slotted spoon, transfer just the onions, and the dressing clinging to them, to a sheet pan.  Don’t wash that bowl though – keep the remaining dressing aside to toss with the cooked onions.  Roast the onions for 30 to 45 minutes, tossing at about the half way point.  You want them browned and falling apart.  When they are ready throw them back into the bowl with the dressing, sprinkle on the parsley and toss.

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Roasted Onions

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 50 minutes plus preheating the oven
  • Print

– 2 red onions and 1 yellow onion (or really any combo you like)
– 2 tablespoons lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
– 1 teaspoon minced garlic
– 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
– 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/2 tablespoon minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Peel onions and then cut in wedges.  For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and thyme in a bowl large enough to hold the onions.  Season with salt and pepper, then slowly whisk in the olive oil.  Dump the onions into the bowl and toss with the dressing.With a slotted spoon, transfer just the onions, and the dressing clinging to them, to a sheet pan.   Roast the onions for 30 to 45 minutes, tossing at about the half way point.  When they are ready throw them back into the bowl with the dressing, sprinkle on the parsley and toss.

Turkey Biryani

The first time I bought ground turkey at Costco I was confident that I would come up with lots of interesting ways to use it.  Turns out turkey burgers was about as far as I got until I ran across this gem in Fine Cooking DSC04536magazine.  Its a great weeknight dinner and has the requisite carbs/meat/veggie combo I like so much.  It may be a little light on the veggie side so if you want to make it more balanced I would recommend serving it with some spinach sautéed with garlic and ginger for good measure.  It reheats well so make the full recipe even if just for two and you will have some lunches ready to go as well.  I know not everyone is super comfortable with Indian food but this is a terrific gateway meal – it is not spicy in a hot sense but it does have great flavor from the spices you are cooking with.  It’s worth it to go out and get cardamom pods, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks.  If you were to use ground versions of any of these the taste wouldn’t be as subtle and complex.

Green cardamom pods

Green cardamom pods

You can find all of these pretty easily these days – I like World Market for this as they sell pretty small sizes and the spices last up to a year.  Hopefully having them on hand will encourage you to try out more Indian dishes but if not they are also great in mulled cider or wine in the fall.  I increased the amount of curry powder for a bit more punch – and just as important as having the right spices is also to have a Taj Mahal or Kingfisher to drink with the biryani!

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Turkey Biryani (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration: Turkey Biryani from Fine Cooking

Special Equipment: None

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder (I like Madras but any kind will do)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 green cardamom pods (yes the pods, ground won’t do here)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 ¾ cups chicken broth
  • ¼ cup golden raisins (regular raisins are fine)
  • ½ cup cashews (or slivered almonds)

In a large pot that has a lid, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. Add the turkey, 1 1/2 tablespoon curry powder and salt. Let it sit for a minute without disturbing it so the turkey can really brown. Cook stirring occasionally until turkey is cooked through and browned, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add peas in with the cooked turkey to get them to start warming through.

DSC04547   DSC04549

Heat the remaining butter in the pan over medium heat and add onions, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick and salt. Once the onions starting giving off liquid it should be easy to use that to deglaze the pan a bit, don’t be shy about scraping up the good brown turkey bits. Stir and cook until onion begins to brown, then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. DSC04553Then add the rice and remaining tablespoon of curry powder. Stir to coat the rice, then add the broth and raisins and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low, cover and cook until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Scoop out the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves (the cloves can be hard to find so if you don’t get them all no worries, the will break down a bit with cooking) then stir in the turkey and peas. Let cook for a minute more to let the flavors meld and then stir in the cashews before serving.

DSC04555Note – the cashews are a nice crunchy, nutty addition but definitely not necessary. I cannot keep cashews in my house longer than a couple of hours before I snack on all of them so I usually skip it. The original recipe also uses cilantro but after years of living with a cilantro hater I left that out by habit but it does add a nice green touch.

Turkey biryani

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  None

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder (I like Madras but any kind will do)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 green cardamom pods (yes the pods, ground won’t do here)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 ¾ cups chicken broth
  • ¼ cup golden raisins (regular raisins are fine as well)
  • ½ cup cashews (or slivered almonds)

In a large pot that has a lid, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. Add the turkey, 1 1/2 tablespoon curry powder and salt. Let it sit for a minute without disturbing it so the turkey can really brown. Cook stirring occasionally until turkey is cooked through and browned, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add peas in with the cooked turkey to get them to start warming through.

Heat the remaining butter in the pan over medium heat and add onions, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick and salt. Once the onions starting giving off liquid it should be easy to use that to deglaze the pan a bit, don’t be shy about scraping up the good brown turkey bits. Stir and cook until onion begins to brown, then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Then add the rice and remaining tablespoon of curry powder. Stir to coat the rice, then add the broth and raisins and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low, cover and cook until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Scoop out the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves (the cloves can be hard to find so if you don’t get them all no worries, the will break down a bit with cooking) then stir in the turkey and peas. Let cook for a minute more to let the flavors meld and then stir in the cashews before serving.

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