Thursday, December 24, 2015

Something for Santa?
What’s cooking? Ice Cream Sandwiches with Molasses Cookies

Don’t ask me why I decided to make ice cream sandwiches to be the dessert for our Christmas Eve dinner, but there it is.

Well, since you ask, I think it started when I was thumbing through one of my new favorite cookbooks, Food52 Genius Recipes. The Kitchen Goddess was taking a bit of umbrage at the “genius” part of the title, snorting about who these people think they are, claiming that sort of stature.

Then I saw the recipe for Molasses Cookies. Oh, my. They looked soft and chewy and just the sort of cookie I lust after in cold weather. Starbucks used to have a ginger molasses cookie that looked very much like this one and would cause me to practically drool in front of the counter before I could stammer out my request. But those disappeared a couple of years ago, and my Starbucks visits haven’t been the same since.

So there they were, these perfect Molasses Cookies, emerging apparently from the kitchens of the Silver Palate. One of the “genius” things the Food52 people have done is to wheedle recipes of specialties from some of the best cooks in the country. And then they mention – oh, so casually – that these large, flat cookies are perfect for ice cream sandwiches.

That did it for me. I’d been scratching my head for weeks as to what to serve at the Christmas Eve dinner that would appeal to the five adults as well as the two pre-schoolers, and this seemed a perfect solution.

The cookies themselves are easy to make – you only have to be sure you allow enough room between blobs of dough on the baking sheet, because they will spread, and once they kiss, at least one of them won’t be exactly round any more.

And the assembly process was a lot easier than I expected, as well. The key is to use a scoop – maybe a scoop and a spoon for pushing – that produces shaves of ice cream, not blobs. Then you can mash them around on top of the cookie however you want before depositing the second cookie on top. If you’re not eating them immediately, wrap them in cellophane wrap and freeze them until it’s time. Easy, peasy. And fun!

The Kitchen Goddess wanted desperately to make this project into a real project, if you get my drift, by making her own ice cream. Then she had a moment of clarity and bought some Dreyers’ Vanilla Bean ice cream, and life smiled again. You can do whatever you damn well please – don’t let me stop you. Just know that my store-bought ice cream and my soft, buttery molasses cookies were just fine together, without the extra sweat and angst.

Molasses Cookies

Adapted from The Silver Palate, as appeared in Food52 Genius Recipes.

Makes 2-3 dozen, depending on the size.

12 tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 egg, lightly beaten
1¾ cups (220 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350º. Line the bottoms of two large rimmed baking sheets with foil.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and add the sugar and the molasses. Remove from the heat and stir energetically with a whisk to get the ingredients well mixed, then add the egg and whisk again to thoroughly combine the ingredients.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients all at once. Stir well, making sure to incorporate the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl. Even when the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, the batter will be fairly wet.

Drop tablespoons of batter onto the foil, leaving about 3 inches between cookies. Bake at 350º for 9-10 minutes, until the cookies start to darken. Cookies should cool on the foil, but you can slide the foil sheet out of the pan and onto your counter without damaging the cookies. Then add a new sheet of foil to the pan for the next batch.

Kitchen Goddess note: If you’re planning to make ice cream sandwiches, you’ll want to get consistently sized cookies. I used a 1 tablespoon measure, which yielded 34 large, flat cookies that were 3 inches in diameter, and seemed a perfect size for sandwiches.

These cookies still had a slightly chewy center, but if you want smaller, chewier cookies, try substituting Crisco for half the butter. The Crisco has a higher melting point than butter and will keep the cookies from spreading so much.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holy Cranberries, Martha! It’s a Holiday Salsa
What’s cooking? Cranberry-Jalapeño Salsa

The Kitchen Goddess is ever on the lookout for a good recipe. Last weekend, in the middle of the shopping and the wrapping and the constant effort to remember what I still have to buy, a little Christmas miracle came my way.

I was wandering through Williams-Sonoma looking for a gift, and one of the salespeople was helping me. After a while, it became clear that they didn’t have what I needed, even though she knew exactly what I was looking for. So as I was thanking her for her efforts, another store employee came up to us and said to her, “I wanted to thank you for bringing that great cranberry salsa to the party. It was delicious!”

My ears perked up. “Cranberry salsa?” I said. “You have a cranberry salsa? That sounds really good. Can I get the recipe? And do you serve it with chips?” Yes, yes, and yes.

And that is how I came to find this delightfully colorful, delectably festive salsa that you will want to serve to those friends who drop by during the holidays, or the folks waiting around for Christmas dinner to be served, or maybe just to yourself and your spouse as you address your holiday cards. It satisfies all of your taste buds – a slightly sweet, salty, tart combo of flavors, with a hint of heat and a bit of crunch from the berries. It takes almost no time to prepare because most of the action happens in your food processor. (Ok, there’s a little work: the lime zesting and the ginger grating and the jalapeño seeding. We must suffer a tiny bit for art.)

So here it is – from her to me to you. Happy holidays!

Cranberry-Jalapeño Salsa

Adapted from a recipe by Julia at Williams-Sonoma at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey.

Makes about 3 cups.

1 bag fresh cranberries
juice and zest from 2 limes
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 large jalapeño (seeds and ribs removed), diced*
4 green onions (white and light green parts only), sliced
1 bunch cilantro (about 1½ cups), roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt*
½ cup sugar*

Put all but the sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the salsa reaches a consistency you like.

Remove the salsa to a bowl, stir in the sugar, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with tortilla chips.

Kitchen Goddess note: As with most dishes, this one can be made more or less sweet, more or less salty, or with more or less heat. You may want to add some of the salt and taste before you add it all. Same with the sugar. A restaurateur friend tells me the heat of a jalapeño comes from the ribs, so if you want more heat, leave some or all of the ribs in. And whether or not you do, be sure to wear rubber gloves when working with jalapeños.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

And the Beet Goes On...
What’s cooking? Beet-Crusted Pork Tenderloin and Grated Beet Salad

In the holiday season, I always like to have a dish that seems celebratory. And while you may not be a fan of beets, you should give this one a try. First of all, the color is beautiful. And second, it doesn’t taste anything like beets.

Now I will admit that I’m a great lover of beets. Always have been. Even as a child, when I experienced beets only from the can, they were one of my favorite veggies. It was that period in American culinary history when fresh vegetables never really made an appearance in the kitchen. Only canned and frozen. At least, that was the way it was at my house. But I loved the lightly sweet taste and that great color.

In college, I was one of the few who actually ate the beets turned out by the dorm kitchen. I remember friends being amazed as I shoveled them down. And in my poor and harried single days in New York, those cans of sliced beets were often part – or maybe all – of dinner. Then I got married.

My husband has never been a fan. Of beets, that is. And I recognize that lots of people won’t touch them no matter how long I wax eloquent on the subject. But the Kitchen Goddess doesn’t give up without a fight, so for my family at least, I’ve offered them in purées with cooked apples, in salads tossed with oranges and a light vinaigrette, in a lovely gingery cream soup...

I’m always looking for a new way to serve these red beauties, and to my hubby’s credit, he’ll generally try at least a taste. He actually liked this pork tenderloin presentation – the beet skins do a great job of keeping the pork moist, and they add nicely earthy notes to the meat. But when I offered him the raw beet salad – after all, the writer in The New York Times claimed that even people who swear they hate beets love this salad – he cautioned me, “Let’s not get carried away, Lee. In the end,... it’s beets.”

* * *

The Kitchen Goddess bets you are now thinking, “So, I make this recipe and then I’m stuck with a bunch of raw beets.” Patience, Grasshopper. It’s true that in the current trend to consume all parts of a plant, it’s not often you get to start with the skin. Usually, that’s the part you really want to throw away, even if it makes you feel guilty. Well, guilt no more. Buy a bunch of beets with those big gorgeous leaves intact. Then: (1) ribbon the leaves and add them to a soup or sauté them for a pasta dish; (2) peel the beets and use the peel with your pork tenderloin; and, finally, (3) shred the peeled beets for a crisp, tangy salad that you’ll find at the bottom of this post.

Beet-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Adapted from Food & Wine magazine, November 2015

Serves 6.

Peels from 1-1½ pounds beets (red or yellow – wash them well first!), ideally about 1½ cups of peel
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 pork tenderloins, about 1¼ pounds each
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Garnish: drizzle of olive oil, and lemon wedges

Put the peels into the bowl of a food processor with the salt and caraway seeds, and process well to produce a finely ground paste.

Pat the pork dry with paper towels, and lay the tenderloins on a rimmed baking sheet. Pat half the paste onto each piece of meat, and allow the tenderloins with the paste to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400º. Drizzle each tenderloin with a tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle with a few fresh grinds of black pepper.

Roast 25-30 minutes at 400º, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted at the center of the meat reads 135º. Let the meat rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes before slicing the tenderloins into ½-inch thick rounds. Lightly drizzle the sliced meat with olive oil, and serve with lemon wedges.

Kitchen Goddess note: The peel paste can be made a day or two ahead and kept in a jar in the fridge.

And now that you have those nicely peeled, raw beets...

Grated Raw Beet Salad

Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman in The New York Times (July 7, 2010)

Serves 6.

1-1½ pounds raw beets, peeled
6 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
4 tablespoons minced parsley or mint (or a combination of the two)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For serving: small romaine lettuce leaves, or baby arugula, or watercress

Grate the peeled beets using a food processor fitted with a shredding blade, and set aside.

In a small bowl or jar, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, and olive oil and mix well. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put the grated beets into a medium-sized bowl, and toss them well with the dressing.

 Adjust seasoning to taste, and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes before serving. Serve on romaine lettuce leaves or a bed of baby arugula or watercress.

Kitchen Goddess note: This salad actually improves with age – the beet juices mix deliciously with the citrus juices. So if you want to make it a day or two before serving, just keep it tightly covered, in the fridge. Be sure to toss the salad well before serving.

Or have it for lunch with some crackers and bleu cheese and a few leaves of endive.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Happy Holidays! It’s the Kitchen Goddess’s Gift Guide for the Foodie in Your Life
What’s cooking? Are you kidding? Who has time to cook?

The shopping season is now in full force, though I hope you all had the good sense to stay home with your feet up on Black Friday. If there’s a foodie on your list, or you’re writing to Santa and can’t decide what to ask for this year, the Kitchen Goddess has a few suggestions.

Please note: The Kitchen Goddess has not received as much as a jingle bell for these recommendations. She is a wonder of ethical virtue.

$20 and under

It’s always fun to find something I like for less than $20. And it doesn’t happen that often, so take note.

I gave one of these little crumb-catcher gizmos to my daughter-in-law last year, and she says it’s awesome. Claims she uses it several times a day. It’s even fun to use. So if you have children or grandchildren under the age of 10, or anyone in your house who has a tendency to leave the table looking less than pristine, this is the gift. It comes in a red ladybug design or this cute mouse in white. I got it at the Container Store for $11.99.

You have no idea how useful an egg slicer can be. Really. In fact, calling it an egg slicer may qualify as the understatement of the century. Yes, eggs, but also mushrooms, strawberries, soft cheese, olives (seeded), bananas, avocado (also seeded),... Use your imagination. And you don’t have to look far: they’re at prices from $3.99 to $14.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Sur la Table,, your local restaurant supply store, and (if you have time) a nifty online resource called

If your Kitchen God or Goddess has a KitchenAid mixer, put this beater blade on your list. Designed with rubber “wipers” to eliminate the need to stop and scrape the bowl manually, the blade has garnered outstanding reviews. Just be sure to get the one that matches your recipient’s model KitchenAid machine – the tilt-head version takes a different shape than the one for the lift mixer. Comes in yellow with blue blades, white with red blades, and as shown here. At, it’s $16.59.

A repeat from last year, because it’s worth it: Here’s something you never knew you or your local home chef needed. A bread wrap. Yes, you read that right: a bread wrap. It’s $15 from a company called Bee’s Wrap, but you can also get it at for $18. Organic cotton muslin that’s been dipped or somehow saturated with beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. Sounds weird, I know, but you wrap a loaf of bread in this cloth, then use the warmth of your hands to mold the wrap around the bread. It’s antibacterial, seals perfectly, and keeps the bread fresh. You can wash the wrap in cool water and use it over and over. And it works. Take it from the Kitchen Goddess.

Over $20

After years of limping along with my analog cooking thermometer (for candy and oil) and the cheapo variety – that never worked – for meats, the Kitchen Goddess finally bit the bullet and got this fancy-schmancy digital version: the ThermoWorks ChefAlarm ($59). It’s the favorite of the America’s Test Kitchen folks, and you know how they torture a product before they commit. This piece of equipment is amazingly easy to operate, with clear and straightforward labeling of the various functions. Smashing reviews on, but as far as I can tell, only available through the ThermoWorks company.

Cutco Traditional Cheese Knife ($84 at the Cutco website or at Cutco retail stores), with what the company calls a Double-D®-edge blade. Its original use was for cheeses, but the company has figured out that the cut-out style of the blade also keeps vegetables and fruits from sticking. Which makes slicing those items a lot easier than with a traditional blade. I tested it out in the new Cutco store here in Austin, and was so impressed I bought one for myself. The Kitchen Goddess is into “easier.”

A couple of years ago, I contributed to a Kickstarter campaign because I thought the product they were making was so completely cool. I still think so, and it looks like others agree with me because that product is now available at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) store. The Porthole Infuser ($100 to non-members, $90 to members) is a gadget for creating cocktails, infused oils and syrups, salad dressings, and more. It comes completely apart for cleaning and is dishwasher safe. You load in your spices, herbs, fruits, and liquid, then let the mix sit for varying amounts of time, then serve. It stands 7 inches high and holds about 13 ounces of stuff. I love the look, but even more I love the fun of building the display. There’s a Facebook page (but of course!) for owners to share recipes, and a website with featured mixes.

You may remember that the Kitchen Goddess is extremely fond of candles. They’re a symbol of hospitality and hope. Candlelight creates a mood that’s friendly and warm, quiet and intimate, regardless of what’s being served. Everyone looks better in candlelight. So whenever I set the table for a dinner party, candles are a major factor in the decor. And the most beautiful votive candle holders – in my view – are from Glassybaby ($44 each). From a deep, yummy plummy to pale celery or baby’s-bottom pink, the range of colors can match any decor, and the glass imparts a glow that’s soft and inviting. Lovely as individual notes, and great in groups. I have 5 in my kitchen: four shades of green and a purple. If you live in Washington state or California, check out the stores; otherwise, shop online at

Way over $20

If you’re looking to really drop some dough on a great present, consider a Vitamix. On, models range from the 1914 2-speed Blender ($300, refurbished) to the newest 780 ($690). At a book fair last year, I heard cookbook author Michael Ruhlman (The Making of a Chef as well as books with Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert) call these machines “the Mazzerati of kitchen equipment.” I scoffed. Then my darling hubby gave me one for Christmas. Oh, my – what fun. Just turn that sucker on and watch it pulverize the world.


A list of foodie gifts wouldn’t be complete without a few of the latest cookbooks. Here you go:

■ San Antonio restaurateur (and Kitchen Goddess friend!) Cappy Lawton, in collaboration with food writer, Chris Waters Dunn, has produced the first ever book on Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex ($30.55 on And what fun it is! The authors open with a clear and amazingly helpful range of topics, from a primer on Mexican spices and cheeses and chiles, to instructions for a delicious and healthy cactus salad, and how to make your own tortillas and Crema Mexicana. Once you get to the recipes, you recognize the terms and ingredients, and the cuisine feels already familiar. The recipes are carefully crafted in an easily followed, step-by-step format, presenting enchiladas with a broad range of styles and fillings. And the photography is gorgeous.

■ One of the more reliable online sites for recipes is Food52, begun by Amanda Hesser (former food writer/editor for The New York Times) and Merrill Stubbs (freelance food writer, food tester at Cook’s Illustrated, and caterer). While working on The Essential New York Times Cookbook, they conceived of the Food52 site as a way to bring cooks together to exchange recipes and ideas about food. The latest production is Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook ($21 at The recipes come from well-known cooks like Yotam Ottolenghi and Alice Waters, from restaurants like River Café and Momofuku, and from names you’ve never heard of. According to the introduction, “these foolproof recipes rethink cooking tropes, solve problems, get us talking, and make cooking more fun.” At the Texas Book Festival this year, I watched the editor perform magic with a couple of these recipes, and I got so excited, I bought the book.

■ J. Kenji López-Alt has become something of a cult figure in the online world of cooking. Part Bill Nye the Science Guy, part Rachel Ray, he’s a columnist for Cooking Light magazine, and the author of a James Beard Award-nominated website called The Food Lab, which steals the show from its parent site, The man writes with a style that’s engaging and easy to read, delivering short-cuts and scientific explanations for his actions that leave you thinking, “Of course – why didn’t I think of that?” (But we won’t get into your shortcomings here.) In his book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking through Science ($27.47 on, he delves into conventional methods for a dish to discover why they don’t always work well, and the newer, simpler ways to achieve far better results. The Kitchen Goddess has not heard so much hype about a cookbook since,... well, ever. And she, ahem, hopes that someone in her family will tell Santa.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sides that Sparkle: Day 4 in a Marathon of Side Dishes
What’s cooking? Mashed Potatoes with Kale-Collards Pesto

It has come to my attention that many if not most of you people have already decided on your menu for Thursday. Well, bully for you. And so that you can all feel just a little bit superior, I will confess that the Kitchen Goddess has not.

I don’t mean to sound bitter or grumpy. It’s mostly a question of too many choices. And wanting something fun and different. And not too much work. And... and... and... The list goes on.

I did, however, find one final recipe to pass along, that for me is a real keeper. And I’ll admit that it’s a bit on the different side. Ok, a lot on the different side, but it works well for me, in the spirit of finding a fresh take on a classic dish.

So, you’re probably all having mashed potatoes. The same old mashed potatoes that you’ve always had. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But how about this: take a small bunch of Tuscan kale (the stuff that looks like elephant skin) and a small bunch of collard greens, and make a pesto with them. Then, instead of adding a big pat of butter to your mashed potatoes, fold in some of that pesto. Oooeee – makes my mouth water just thinking about it. I gave my hubby a taste of the mixture this morning and he pronounced it “thumbs up.”

The pesto is much more mellow than basil or arugula, my other faves in the pesto world. But there’s a great mouth-feel, and a mysteriously lovely green veggie taste that I think you’ll like. So here it is.

Kale-Collards Pesto

Adapted from Bon Appétit, July 2015

Makes about 2 cups.

1 small bunch Tuscan kale (about 5-7 ounces), stems cut out
1 small bunch collard greens (about 5-7 ounces), stems cut out
table salt for the cooking water
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1½ ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (not quite 1 cup)
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¾ cup good quality olive oil
Kosher salt/freshly ground black pepper

Before you cook the greens, prepare an ice water bath (a large mixing bowl with ice water). Then in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the collards and the kale together for just 45 seconds, to tenderize the leaves and turn them a bright green. Plunge the cooked leaves into the ice water bath for about 1 minute, to stop the cooking and set the color.

Drain the leaves and squeeze as much of the water out as you can. (You can do this with your bare hands – the color won’t leach out.) Chop the leaves roughly and add them to the bowl of a food processor.

Add the garlic, cheese, pine nuts, lemon zest, and lemon juice, and pulse until the mixture achieves a thick, grainy texture. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil, and continue to process until the mixture is well blended. (Don’t bother trying to get it completely smooth; the meaty texture is part of the deal.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you make it the day before serving, refrigerate the finished pesto in a bowl covered with plastic wrap that presses on the surface of the mix.

* * *

Mashed Potatoes

Kitchen Goddess note: Both Mark Bittman (How to Cook Everything) and America’s Test Kitchen agree that the fluffiest mashed potatoes come from potatoes that have been boiled whole and in their skins. (Less water absorbed into the flesh.) It’ll take longer, but it is worth the time. And with this method, it takes just moments to get the skin off.

Pretty much all mashed potato recipes are the same. Boil the potatoes in salted water until you can pierce one easily with a skewer or sharp knife. Drain the potatoes and peel them, then mash them with either a ricer or a food mill or a potato masher. (The Kitchen Goddess has all three and prefers the masher because there’s less to clean up.) Do not use a food processor or blender or standing mixer unless you want to make glue instead of mashed potatoes.

Working with a wooden spoon, stir the potatoes as you add warm milk to them (about ¾ cup per 2 pounds of potatoes), and continue stirring until they reach the consistency you want. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.

If you’ll be adding the pesto, now is the time. Because I was cooking the spuds just for testing, I cooked only 2 large Russet potatoes (about 1 pound). I folded in ¼ cup of pesto, and that seemed right. So if you’re cooking 2 pounds of potatoes, use ½ cup of pesto, adding more according to your preference.

* * *

Kitchen Goddess Post Script: I heard a TED talk the other day, in which the speaker said that happiness appears to be directly related to how grateful one is, and not the other way around. That people who can be grateful for what they have are the happiest. So I wish you all a delightful Thanksgiving Day, filled with gratitude for all that life has given you – the small moments as well as the large ones. As for me, I am grateful for all of you – those of you that I know well, and those I’ve never met – who stop by and read what I’ve written and have the spirit to try my suggestions. Bon appétit, everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sides that Sparkle: Day 3 in a Marathon of Side Dishes
What’s cooking? Broccoli-Cheddar Gratin

You know that gigantic pile of recipes you’ve cut out from newspapers and magazines, sure that you’ll find time for them one of these days? Maybe even today, if you had the time and energy to burrow through them. Surely, somewhere in there is the perfect dish for this Thanksgiving.

Well, you can stop now. The Kitchen Goddess understands your pain. In fact, she used this marathon as an excuse to inventory/cull her own now vast collection of recipes she felt sure at the time that she would make.

In fact, there were a few gems. But one stopped me in my tracks. The paper is yellowed with a couple of grease marks, and the list of ingredients so faded as to be almost unreadable. It doesn’t have a name, but as I read down the page, a memory flashed. Two little boys at my kitchen table, antsy to eat because dinner was once again later than they had hoped. And while they were never thrilled with the vegetables, they learned to eat whatever it was. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even tell them what it was until they ate a bite. However it worked, it did in fact work – today, they’ll eat pretty much anything.

I haven’t made that broccoli dish in years. And frankly, when I read the list of ingredients, I can’t quite believe it worked as well as I remember. So I’ve played a bit with it – you know the Kitchen Goddess can’t really help herself, and back in those days, of course, there was no Kitchen Goddess. But in honor of those two little boys – both of whom will be spending Thanksgiving in New Jersey, while I will be in Texas – here it is, in its revised and refreshed format.

I’ve raised the bar for “broccoli casserole” a bit here – adding caramelized onions and nutmeg, and substituting panko instead of standard bread crumbs. And there’s a little more cream than it had in its youth, so the custard is a little more elegant. Just be sure to use a good quality cheese. It’s a nice accompaniment to a turkey dinner – one that should please the big boys and the little ones.

Broccoli-Cheddar Gratin

Loosely adapted from Gourmet, February 2009

Serves 6-8.

2 crowns broccoli (about 1 pound – that would be without the very thick stems, which I usually save and peel and slice, but they’re not very dressy, and this recipe is for Thanksgiving)
½ teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, cut in ½-inch dice (1 cup)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 cup milk (feel free to use any type – I used skim)
½ cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch for the panko
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus a pinch for the panko
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (about 3½ ounces)
nutmeg (about ½ teaspoon, or more to taste)
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350º. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven.

Cut broccoli into large florets, and steam 20 minutes, until the florets are just fork-tender.

While the broccoli is steaming, caramelize the onions: Smear the olive oil around a medium skillet and set over medium heat. Add the onion and cover. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, removing the cover and stirring about every 2½-3 minutes. After 10 minutes, the onions will have magically browned; if not let them cook another 3-5 minutes. Reduce the heat and add 1 tablespoon water, stirring to release the fond (that brown stuff on the bottom of the skillet). Stir in the teaspoon of butter, and remove the onions from the heat. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, salt, and pepper. Stir in the caramelized onion.

When the broccoli is fork-tender, spread it out in a 2-quart shallow flameproof baking dish, and sprinkle the cheese across the top. Grate nutmeg over the broccoli. Spoon the milk mixture over the broccoli/cheese.

Melt the tablespoon of butter and toss well with the panko and a pinch each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle the panko evenly over the dish.

Bake until the custard is set, about 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil until bread crumbs are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sides that Sparkle: Day 2 in a Marathon of Side Dishes
What’s cooking? Spiced Butternut Squash with Pecans and Cranberries

Butternut squash is one of those veggies I discovered late in life. Some 20 years ago, I was combing my cookbooks for a soup to make, and in the first Silver Palate Cookbook – for years my go-to source for almost any entertaining – I spotted the recipe for Curried Butternut Squash Soup. The curry, the apples, the butternut flavor so close to sweet potatoes and yet so far in caloric content (half the calories!).

But that’s a recipe for another day. Today, the Kitchen Goddess has found an even easier way to serve butternut squash, with a mildly exotic flavoring featuring a spice mix from Ethiopia. Earthy and warm and colorful, and while you may not have the exact seasoning – it wasn’t in the KG’s cabinet, either – she has concocted a reasonable substitute that worked very well.

One reason butternut squash seemed like a good candidate was that my grocery store had it already peeled and diced (!). Normally, I wouldn’t mind doing the peeling and cutting myself – the Kitchen Goddess is always skeptical of the freshness of such offerings – but it was moving off the shelves so well that freshness didn’t seem to be a problem. And normally, I don’t have four days of veggie dishes to concoct in addition to what I’m cooking for Thanksgiving, so I appreciated the shortcut.

I use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds.
So even if your grocer isn’t as accommodating as mine, don’t let that talk you out of a great dish. I’ll admit that peeling butternut squash is a workout. But well worth the trouble. Just be sure to remove enough to get past the green veins just under the skin.

Another nice thing about this dish is that it works well at room temperature. So you can make it and just let it sit out while the rest of the dinner is under way. Or you can make it the day before and reheat it in the microwave. If you do that, save the dressing in a jar and pour it on when you’re ready to serve.

Spiced Butternut Squash with Pecans and Cranberries

Adapted from Chef Marcus Samuelsson in Food & Wine, November 2014

Serves 6.

2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch dice
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons berbere (see Kitchen Goddess note)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup pecan halves
½ teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
¼ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup dried cranberries, chopped

Kitchen Goddess note: I would guess that not many of you will find berbere in your spice drawer. The KG made her own. Mix the following together well, and save what’s left for another day:
1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper (or 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper)
2½ teaspoons sweet paprika
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon sweet curry powder
⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
1/16 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 450º.

Lightly grease a large, rimmed baking sheet or line it with baker’s parchment. In a large mixing bowl, toss the squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 teaspoon of the berbere spice mix. Spread the squash onto the baking sheet, and season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Roast the squash 30 minutes, until tender and beginning to crisp.

While the squash is roasting, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pecan halves and cook, stirring, for 5-6 minutes, or until the nuts become fragrant. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of the spice mix. Once the pecans become fragrant, toss them in a bowl with the sugar/spice.

In another small bowl or jar, combine the orange zest and juice, and slowly whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season to taste with kosher salt (I added about ¼ teaspoon) and several fresh grinds of black pepper.

Transfer the squash to a serving dish and scatter the pecans and cranberries over the top. Drizzle the dressing over the dish and serve warm or at room temperature.

Look for another new side dish in tomorrow's continuation of the marathon...