Tuesday, July 6, 2021

A Pop-Up Dinner for Two

 What’s cooking? Pasta with Blistered Tomatoes, Sausage, & Spinach

We arrived in Jackson, Mississippi just 11 hrs after leaving Austin. A drive that was supposed to take less than 9 hours. It was the first leg of our first journey north in two years, our first journey anywhere, in fact, so we were pretty excited as we hit the road. Then the skies opened up. We lost two hours that day, slogging our way through Louisiana at 35-40 mph just trying to keep from sliding off the roadway. What a nightmare. We felt like the highway version of Joe Btfsplk, the Al Capp character from L’il Abner who was known as “the world’s worst jinx.” Btfsplk walked around with a cloud over his head, 24/7. And that was us: wherever we went – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi – the rain and the thunder and the lightning accompanied us.

We checked into our hotel around 8, then headed immediately to the shopping area next door where I knew we’d find several restaurants. But it was Monday, and in Jackson, apparently, Monday is a restaurant holiday. Three of the four were closed, and the fourth stopped serving at 8 pm. So no food at all. But they had a bar, which was also closing up, but still in the process. I threw myself on the mercies of the bartender, who said he’d sell me a drink in a plastic cup. “Great,” I said, “I’ll have a glass of rosé.”

“Make that 2,” said my hubby, who had just walked up. Then, “Wait,” he said. “Make that 3.”

We looked at each other, nodded, and I said “Hold on, sir,” as I held up four fingers. It only cost us $45, including tip. It seemed like a bargain. 

“But what will we do for dinner?” said my mate. He had forgotten he’s married to the Kitchen Goddess.

“Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered,” I said. Because my last task before leaving the house in Austin was to pile into a cooler everything I wanted from the fridge and the pantry that wouldn’t last the summer. It’s always a moment of high tension as I do this dance, because my prince has at that point packed the car and now has to move things around to accommodate the cooler. Also because he thinks we should just leave the food, or toss it.

But every once in a while, these habits of mine bear fruit, or at least apples. Also – in this case – cheese, leftover barbecued ribs, a few cold cuts, some diced honeydew melon, a bag of sugar snap peas, a hard-boiled egg, cherry tomatoes, and pesto sauce. A feast! And because we were at a Marriott Residence Inn, the room had plates and flatware and even wine glasses. Might have been the best meal we’d had in a while.

* * *

The dish I have for you today is one I discovered in the runup to leaving. I was doing my darndest to stop making trips to the grocery store, and this recipe – with a few substitutions – managed to cover a lot of bases. The prep is amazingly easy, but it’s the versatility of the recipe that endears it to me. My sister-in-law feels similarly, having made it first with farro (which has been her favorite so far), but also with brown rice and quinoa for a gluten-free group. She says she likes it very much. So...

A Kitchen Goddess note on the choices you can make:

■ The carb element can be farro (which was the writer’s choice), or any short pasta shape. I used orecchiette. My sister-in-law made it with a brown rice/quinoa mix. Israeli couscous would work as well.

■ I wasn’t out of red onion, but if you are, try substituting shallots.

■ For the tomatoes, if you can find good, fresh cherry tomatoes when they’re in season, use them. Otherwise, the writer and I prefer grape tomatoes for better flavor.

■ The greens can be spinach or arugula. Or kale or broccoli rabe, but you’d have to pre-cook those, and who wants to do that?

■ The herbs can be fresh basil (Kitchen Goddess fave) or parsley.

■ The cheese can be mozzarella, buratta, ricotta salata, or feta. If you choose feta or ricotta salata (the dried, aged form of ricotta), do not add salt until you taste the dish with the cheese, as both of those cheeses are salty.

■ The pecan pieces are optional. I added them because my sister-in-law said the farro in hers had a slightly nutty flavor that she liked. I wanted that nutty flavor, too.

■ My sister-in-law made hers vegetarian and loved it that way. But I had a pound of Aidells chicken sausage (which come pre-cooked) to use up. I broiled it for 3-4 minutes per side, then stirred it into the blistered tomatoes; next time, I’ll just add them to the tomatoes about halfway through the cooking time. If you’re starting with raw Italian sausage, add it to the pan with the tomatoes and onion at the beginning.

Pasta with Blistered Tomatoes, Sausage, & Spinach

Adapted from Yasmin Fahr in The New York Times.

Serves 4.

Time: Ms. Fahr says 40 minutes, but KG is less efficient and took 1 hour.

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces orecchiette (or other short pasta), or 1 cup farro, rinsed
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound sausage (your choice, or none)
¼ cup pesto (store-bought or homemade)*
1 lemon, zested (about 1 tablespoon) and juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
¼ cup pecan pieces (optional), lightly toasted for 5 minutes in a small skillet over medium heat
2 packed cups baby spinach or arugula
1 (4-ounce) ball fresh buratta or mozzarella, torn into chunks, or ½ cup ricotta salata or feta, crumbled
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, or basil, leaves and tender stems thinly sliced (chiffonade)

*What??! Store-bought pesto? Ok, KG loves to make pesto, and here are two of her faves (click for link): basil pesto and arugula pesto. If you make a batch, you’ll have at least a cup left over that you can freeze for the next time you need some. But I will not hold it against anyone who wants to buy theirs.

Heat the oven to 400º. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta or farro and stir. For farro, cook at medium boil, stirring occasionally, until tender and not too chewy, about 30 minutes. Cook pasta to al dente, usually 9-10 minutes. (The shorter cooking time for pasta means that you should wait until the tomatoes/onions are halfway through their oven time to begin cooking the pasta.)

While the water is heating, in a medium bowl, toss together the tomatoes and onion wedges with the oil. Pour everything out onto a sheet pan, then season with salt, pepper and the Aleppo or red pepper flakes. (If you prefer, do that tossing on the sheet pan itself. The Kitchen Goddess likes to put a sheet of baker’s parchment down in the pan, but it gets a bit messy if you’re tossing tomatoes/onions/olive oil on top of parchment.) Roast 25-30 minutes, until the tomatoes blister and slightly deflate.

If you are using raw sausage, add it now to the sheet pan with the tomatoes/onions. If your sausage is pre-cooked, slice it in ½-inch pieces – or whatever size you prefer – and add it to the sheet pan halfway through the cooking time for the tomatoes/onions.

When the pasta/farro is done, drain it, then move it to a serving bowl or back into the pot. Toss with the pesto, adding a bit more of olive oil if you wish. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, then add the pecans pieces (if using) and the greens. Continue stirring the greens with the warm pasta/farro, to get them slightly wilted.

Scrape the onions, tomatoes, sausages and their juices onto the pasta/farro; season with salt and pepper as needed. Add the cheese, then garnish with herbs and serve.

Buon appetito!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

What I Did for Love

 What’s cooking? Lemony White Bean Soup with Turkey and Greens

■ In the early days of lockdown, my friend Gail – along with so many other bakers and even non-bakers – decided that what she’d do to occupy herself was to bake bread, for family and friends alike. But she needed flour. There was none to be had at the local grocery store, and she has a pre-existing condition that limited her ability to shop around. Well, if she needed flour, then the love of her life would by God get her some. From Costco. He called her from the store with just one question: “You want the 25-pound bag or the 50-pound bag?”

This is a quarter of our delivery.
■ At my own house a year ago, we were relatively unprepared for the impact of the stay-at-home orders, especially on our supply of popcorn, which had recently become my snack du jour. So my prince took it upon himself to order some from amazon. A couple of days later, a large carton showed up on our porch, holding a dozen boxes of microwaveable popcorn, each box holding 12 individual packages. “I didn’t mean to order so much,” he said. So we contemplated where to store it all and how long it might take us to consume 144 bags of popcorn. The next day, I noticed another large carton from amazon at our door. What now? I thought. Why, it was another 12 boxes of popcorn. “I was so excited, I must have clicked twice on the ‘Buy Now’ button,” he said.

■ When the power went out at my friend Joy’s apartment during the Texas Winter Wipeout, one of the concerns she and her hubby faced was the inability to grind beans for their ritual daily coffee. In a quintessentially masculine approach, her darling husband realized he didn’t need no stinking grinder – a dishtowel and ...a pizza roller? Too hard to control. How about a crab mallet? Yes, a crab mallet would do the trick. And it did. Sort of. The coffee was a little weaker than they were used to, but any port in a storm, as they say. The more memorable effect was the tiny bits of coffee “dust” that covered the floor and counters of the kitchen. Joy said it added a “Turkish coffee bar” ambience to the experience.

But for the fact that we are still working through our supply of microwave popcorn, I’m going to miss some of these quirks of behavior that this past year has engendered. Those gestures that say, “I love you so much I’m going to smash coffee beans on your kitchen counter so you can have your cup of Joe” or “I’ll haul 25 pounds of flour home for you” – those are the gifts that mean much more than a bunch of flowers or a piece of jewelry.

The overnight shift in the ICU.
For my own part, I’ve been making cookies: since last March, I calculate 71 dozen. Most for my grandchildren, but many for my son and the ICU nurses he works with, quite a few for friends, even some for a group of women golfers. We all have our ways to say “I care.”

Along with the rest of you, I’m still cooking more than I used to. But the Kitchen Goddess has actually enjoyed having the time to peruse her many sources of recipes, and not a few of the results have been fun and delicious. What I’ve lacked for is stories – really, how much interesting has been happening in your life? – which is why so few of those recipes have made it into blog posts. It has only recently occurred to me that maybe I don’t have to have a long story, so I’m going to see what I can do to streamline the delivery of some really excellent dishes to you.

The first is today’s Lemony White Bean Soup with Turkey and Greens, from Melissa Clark of The New York Times. Imagine this: we’ve passed the vernal equinox, so spring is nominally here. But it’s still frosty and gray in the early morning. You wake up warm and cozy under your comforter, and as you’re considering the day, the sun makes a sudden appearance and within minutes, the birds are chirping outside your window. That’s this soup. What might otherwise be your basic combo of “beans + meat” is brought smartly into the season by a splash of lemon and a bunch of fresh herbs stirred in at the end.

Ms. Clark maintains that the time it takes to make this dish is 45 minutes. Phooey. This is a subject on which the Kitchen Goddess gets..., well, irate. In the world of food journalists and professional recipe developers, it is common to offer “cooking time” estimates that ignore the time it takes to gather the ingredients, dice the onion and the carrot, mince the garlic, grate the ginger, rinse the beans, chop the herbs, and squeeze the lemon juice.

How do those people expect the work gets done? In their own home kitchens, do they arrive to find the ingredients magically pulled from the pantry or fridge and nicely arranged with knives and cutting boards already out? Do they have husbands/lovers/children/other friends or relatives who routinely sprint to the kitchen to offer assistance? In my house, I have a loving mate who, while not actually eager to help, is willing and attentive to the fact that dinner will appear sooner if he pitches in; but then I have to add back the time it takes to explain his part in the production and what/where the tools are for executing said part. And the Kitchen Goddess admittedly gets occasionally distracted and a bit over focused on tasks like ribboning the greens. (That’s just the way she likes them, so she deals with it.) But the idea that anyone could walk into the kitchen and 45 minutes later have this delectable dish is, well, stupid.

Ok, the KG is going to take a breath now. What Ms. Clark means is that, once you have gathered your tools and ingredients and done the chopping and squeezing and mincing and grating... THEN it takes 45 minutes. So I routinely add another hour. But this dish is so worth it.

Lemony White Bean Soup With Turkey and Greens

Adapted from Melissa Clark in The New York Times

Serves 4.

Mise en place, y’all. And only 45 minutes from here.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 large bunch hearty greens (collard greens, kale, broccoli rabe, mustard greens)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¾ teaspoon ground cumin, plus some at end to taste
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper (can substitute ⅛ teaspoon chili pepper flakes)
½ pound ground turkey
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more at end to taste
1 quart chicken stock
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed (15-ounce cans or 19-ounce cans, makes no difference)
1 cup chopped fresh, soft herbs (parsley, mint, cilantro, dill, basil, tarragon, chives or a combination – I used parsley, mint, dill, and cilantro)
Juice of a whole lemon (regular or Meyer lemon)

Rinse the greens and pull the leaves off the stems. Tear or chop (or ribbon, as the Kitchen Goddess prefers) the leaves into bite-size pieces and reserve. (Can't help myself. See? It doesn’t look hard, does it?)

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, let the oil warm for about a minute, then add the onion and carrot, and sauté for 7-10 minutes, until the onion is soft and golden, maybe even a little brown at the edges.

Stir the tomato paste, the cumin, and the Aleppo pepper (or red-pepper flakes, if that’s what you are using) into the pot, and continue stirring about a minute, when the paste will darken.

Add the turkey, garlic, ginger and 1 teaspoon salt, and sauté, stirring often and breaking up the meat with your spoon, for 5-6 minutes, until the turkey is browned in spots.

Add stock and the beans, and bring the soup to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the soup is thick and flavorful, adding more salt to taste. Kitchen Goddess note: At this point, you can decide how thick you want the soup to be. The KG prefers a thicker soup, so she gets her potato masher out and smashes about a third of the beans, to release their starch. You can also just use a spoon to smash some against the side of the pot. Or you can leave the beans whole for a brothier soup. It will taste great either way.

Add the greens to the pot and simmer until they are soft, or at least no longer al dente. That will take 5-10 minutes for most greens; collards are thicker and could take as long as 15 minutes. (If the broth seems like it is thickening too much, you can add a little water.)

Remove the soup from the heat and stir the herbs and lemon juice into the pot until the herbs get well incorporated. Taste the soup and add more salt, cumin and lemon juice until the broth is lively and bright-tasting. (The Kitchen Goddess adds ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and another rounded ¼ teaspoon of cumin.) Serve topped with a thin drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of Aleppo pepper (or red-pepper flakes), if desired.

The soup will be hot enough to wilt the herbs, so just stir it for a few minutes before tasting.

Enjoy the season!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Down a Rabbit Hole of Mushrooms

 What’s cooking? Crispy Stuffed Mushrooms with Dried Apricots

When I started this post, it was to suggest a meal for Valentine’s Day. I had thought mushrooms had aphrodisiac properties. But do they really? In a word, no. And then the day came and went while my hubby and I battled the 2021 Wicked Winter Storm here in Austin. We had no power in the part of the house that has the guest rooms, and no heat in the part that has our bedroom and bathroom. Sleeping is fine – under a toasty down quilt – and we heated the bathrooms via towel warmers, hoping we could hold off taking showers until the HVAC guys could come.

I’ll still give you this recipe because it’s something different and versatile and a great mix of flavors and textures. The Kitchen Goddess and her mate have dined on it twice now, and made all gone both times. And now that we’ve moved from Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year to Ash Wednesday and into Lent, these meat-free options for dinner are popular.

I went foraging for mushroom dishes in past blog posts, to take a look at what I’ve already written about mushrooms. I discovered, embarrassingly, that pretty much all the information I had gathered for this post has already appeared. No wonder it all seemed familiar. So. All that stuff about how good they are for you, how to buy them and store them, and even about the different kinds of wild and cultivated fungi, has been presented, perhaps ad nauseum, on these “pages.” If you missed them, here’s a lightning round of mushroom deliciousness from the past.

First, the soups. I’d forgotten how much I love mushroom soup, and here are two – one made with cream and one made without. The first, creamy but cream-free, is Wild Mushroom Soup with Madeira.

Then there’s the creamy version: Crimini Mushroom Soup.

I never get tired of mushrooms combined with pasta. So here’s Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce, simple and straightforward.

As with classic Bolognese, this Mushroom Bolognese gets an extra boost of flavor from the veggie base, and its texture is amazingly like ground beef.

I like anything in a rustic tart – so much easier to make than it looks! Here’s my Swiss Chard and Mushroom Tart with Whole Wheat Pastry.

And finally, the easiest – but still delightful – meal possible, is mushrooms on toast. The first shown below is Morel Mushroom Toasts with Parsley Salad; the second – the country mouse version – is   Mushroom Toast. Add a nice salad or veggie and you’re done.

Historically, the season for mushrooms is autumn, but these days, you can find mushroom farmers all over the world, producing plentiful year-round crops, not only of the traditional white button ‘shrooms, but also of criminis (brown button mushrooms), portabellas (just a mature version of the first two, but with a strikingly different texture), and shiitakes (most often in East Asian cuisine). In the past 50 years, farming has extended to oyster mushrooms, enokis, and pioppino mushrooms. And why not? As a crop, they’re profitable, easy to grow, and have a remarkably low impact on the environment. But even wild mushrooms that are difficult to cultivate – like porcini, chanterelle, and hen-of-the-woods – can be found year round these days. My NJ farmers’ market features a guy who forages all over the state during the summer. 

So without further blathering, here’s the recipe that started me down this road: Crispy Stuffed Mushrooms with Apricots – a perfect sweet-savory mix that you can use as an hors d’oeuvre or an entrée. The topping has a tendency to crumble, so when you shop for the mushrooms, you’ll want to focus on how you’ll be serving them. Hors d’oeuvres need to be small enough to take in one bite, whereas the larger mushrooms are deeply satisfying to eat with a fork. Serve as an entrée over egg noodles or rice, with the leftover filling sprinkled as a garnish.

Kitchen Goddess notes on the ingredients:

■ The crinkly texture of the breadcrumbs is essential, so the Kitchen Goddess begs you to get panko crumbs at your grocer, rather than traditional breadcrumbs which have an unfortunate tendency to compact. (Also, panko is lower in calories, fat, and sodium than regular breadcrumbs.) The crispy topping contrasts really nicely with the earthy smoothness of the mushrooms, and the spice mix in the topping adds a wonderful zing.

■ KG’s curbside service delivered a really random assortment of sizes, mostly larger than you would use as hors’d’oeuvres. So you may want to visit the store in person if you need uniform sizes. But we’re not having parties these days anyhow, are we? Just be sure to get mushrooms with stems, as you’ll need the stems for the filling.

■ If you don’t have dried apricots, other dried fruits will also work. Cranberries, craisins, prunes, dates...

Crispy Stuffed Mushrooms with Apricots

Adapted from Melissa Clark in The New York Times

Yield: Serves 2 as entrée, 4 as hors d’oeuvres.

Time: Ms. Clark claims 45 minutes, but that’s if you have minions to chop and measure out ingredients. Without minions, add 30 minutes for the prep.

8-9 ounces crimini (preferred) or button mushrooms
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ small onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
1 garlic clove, minced (about 1 rounded teaspoon)
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper + ¾ teaspoon sweet paprika)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
¼ teaspoon ground cumin (if you like cumin, feel free to add a bit more
½ cup panko bread crumbs
⅓ cup, plus 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
2 tablespoons chopped dried apricots
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 400º.

Separate the mushroom stems from the caps and chop the stems.

In a medium-sized skillet (10-inch diameter) over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and let it warm up for about 20 seconds, until it thins out. Add the chopped mushroom stems and the onion and cook, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes until the stems are lightly browned and the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, Aleppo pepper, tomato paste, salt, and cumin, and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the tomato paste darkens and the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the panko and 1½ tablespoons olive oil to the mixture and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 4-6 minutes, until the bread crumbs appear lightly toasted. Watch carefully to make sure the bread crumbs don’t burn. Remove the pan from the heat and scrape the mixture into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the ⅓ cup Parmesan, the cilantro, the dried apricots and the lemon zest, and toss well to combine. Taste and season with black pepper and more salt if needed.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or spray it lightly with PAM. Place the mushroom caps on the pan with cavities facing up. Drizzle the insides of the caps with the remaining 1½ tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Using a spoon, stuff the mushroom caps with the seasoned bread-crumb mixture. I found that there’s a lot of filling to be used, but the mushrooms taste best with as much as you can pile on. You can use your fingertips to gently mound the filling together.

Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on the mushrooms. Bake 15-20 minutes, until the tops are crisp and golden. Serve hot or warm, with lemon wedges for squeezing over the tops. If you are serving over rice or lightly buttered noodles, sprinkle the leftover (and there will be some) stuffing around as garnish. 

To make ahead: You can stuff these little darlings as many as 6 hours in advance. If you are making them more than an hour ahead, it’s probably best to cover the tray with cellophane wrap and refrigerate them. If only an hour in advance, you can leave them out.

Bon appétit!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


 What’s cooking? Fruit Compote 1 a.m.

So many traditions this year have been tossed by the wayside, hit-and-run victims of COVID-19. For us, I’ll especially miss the trips to NJ that include Christmas dinner with our gang of relatives living in the Northeast, the Christmas Eve candlelight service at the church we’ve attended for so many years, and the drive afterward through the Summit, NJ neighborhoods where luminarias line the streets.

But not all traditions have been flattened into the asphalt.  A group of Austin friends – all wives of guys who golf together – met for our annual Christmas lunch in one woman’s backyard on Friday, because that’s what you can still do in South Texas at this time of year. And the absence of travel has spurred the Kitchen Goddess to make a truly ridiculous number of cookies for shipping around the country, including a tin to the doctors and nurses who work with my son in the ICU. And almost everyone is either lighting a menorah or defiantly putting up a Christmas tree.

Speaking of Christmas trees, Austin folk have their own tradition that’s alive and kicking even in a pandemic. On Loop 360, which has a long stretch of nothing much but spruce trees, Austinites annually have taken to decorating those trees at Christmas. Tinsel, Christmas ornaments, ribbons, and paper plate designs – nothing is too much or too little. You pick out a tree and go for it. It’s a little bit of Austin weirdness at Christmas, and special crews of volunteers take it all down after the holidays. Now how much fun is that?

One of the Kitchen Goddess’s traditions is to give away jams and preserves that she made from the summer’s bounty in NJ. No NJ fruits this year, and she didn’t think far enough into the future when her Sungold tomatoes were on the vine. Also, she was eating them almost as fast as they showed up.

But there is something even you can do, from what’s in your grocery store right now. At our house, it’s called Fruit Compote 1am, because it’s usually about that time that the Goddess looks around at the fruit she has and realizes it won’t all get eaten before it goes bad. In that case, there’s nothing better to make than fruit compote, regardless of the hour.

Pretty much any combination of fruits will do, so if you have strawberries instead of blackberries, or you used up all your cranberries, or you could only find frozen rhubarb,  just cobble together what you have– or check the frozen fruit aisle for substitutes, because if you only have apples, what you get is... applesauce. And compote is more fun.

A plain Rhubarb Compote (from a previous blog), on grilled apricots.

What you can do with this compote is never-ending. One friend put some of mine on a rice pudding that hadn’t turned out as well as she’d hoped. She said it saved the day. I put it on yogurt, ice cream, waffles, pancakes, or French toast. The Kitchen Goddess has softened vanilla ice cream and swirled compote into it for a dessert that looks like it took hours. Or put a bow on a jar of it and call it a Christmas gift.

The Kitchen Goddess often has Fruit Compote 1 a.m. over Greek yogurt for breakfast.

So here it is – my holiday gift to you.

Fruit Compote 1 a.m.

Kitchen Goddess note: It’s a good idea to have at least some fairly tart fruit – like rhubarb, cranberries, or plums – as these keep the compote from being too sweet. And I recommend using apples with a good flavor, that don’t fall apart completely in the cooking. Most recipes recommend Honeycrisp, Gala, Granny Smith, Jonathan, or Cortland, but many others will probably do. Pretty sure I used Gala. In total, you want almost 3 pounds of fruit.

Makes 3 pints.

1 pound rhubarb, cut in ½-inch dice (fresh or frozen)
½ cup blackberries
4 ounces fresh cranberries
1 medium pear, cut in ½-inch dice 
2-3 apples (about 1½ pounds total), cut in ½-inch dice
3 strips of lemon zest, about ½-inch wide and 2 inches long
1-inch knob of ginger, grated
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons Calvados (or whatever alcohol sounds good to you: ginger liqueur, white wine, champagne, Grand Marnier, brandy, sherry)

In a large (4-quarts) saucepan, stir together everything but the alcohol. Keep stirring every few minutes until the sugar dissolves and the juices from the fruit emerge in enough volume to give you a stew-y consistency. Bring the fruit to a boil, then reduce the heat to get the fruit lightly bubbling. Simmer about 15 minutes, then add your alcohol of choice and simmer another 4-5 minutes. Taste, and if it seems too sweet, add another ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt.

Spoon the compote into pint jars and refrigerate. Or preserve as with jam.

Happy Holidays! Stay safe and be kind to others. Tip lavishly, and give as much as you can to your local food pantry. It’ll raise your spirits in ways that will surprise you.

Monday, December 7, 2020

A Wonderland of Flour and Sugar

What’s cooking? Best Cookies from the Goddess

Who are we kidding? It’s actually all of the cookies from the Kitchen Goddess, because I couldn’t decide which not to include. A little like choosing which of your children you like best. Although I do recall that when our younger son would grouse about not being able to do something his brother could do, my usual response was, “Because we love him more.” It was character-building.

I’ve been baking cookies at Christmastime as far back as my second apartment in NYC. In the first, I had two roommates  – in a one-bedroom apartment! – for much of that time, and it was hard to ask their indulgence to take over the place with flour and sugar. Also, we lived above a grocery store and had way more roaches than we deserved.

My second apartment was third-floor walk-up studio – tiny, but all mine. The kitchen was... small, with a half-size fridge and an almost full-size oven. The room could hold two people if they kept their arms to their sides. The best thing about it was that it had a window – only about 4 inches wide, and it didn’t open – which in my mind, qualified it as a luxurious separate room. If you know Manhattan apartments, you understand.

And in that tiny space, with my “dining table” as a flat surface, I made dozens of cookies for the holidays.

Marriage introduced me to my mother-in-law, who introduced me to rolling out cookies using wax paper, and life was never the same after that. This holiday season, because I can’t cook a Christmas dinner for my East Coast relatives, I’ll be making – and shipping – some 272 cookies. And then I’ll shoot myself. But in the meantime, I’ll be having fun.

So here are links to the Kitchen Goddess’s cookie recipes. I had hoped to add a new one, but I have all these cookies to decorate...

These Molasses Cookies are great on their own, and spectacular as ice cream sandwiches.

If you like a cookie that’s got a savory note, try this Rosemary Shortbread Cookie with Tomato Jam. No tomato jam? Any sweet or savory jam will do.


My friend Barbara introduced me to these Chocolate Star Cookies with Pistachio Stardust, and they are perfect for the holiday season.

If you like a sweet/salty mix, these Caramel and Potato Chip Cookies are divine. And fun to make.

For your gluten-free friends – or anyone who likes a meringue-type cookie, Greek Almond Cookies are very good and fast. You make the dough in the food processor!

I do love a chocolate-and-coffee combo. Chocolate Espresso Italian Wedding Cookies are a classic, and very pretty. Served here with Lemon Panna Cotta.

Another savory-ish cookie is this Lemon-Basil Butter Cookie -- simple, and simply delicious. Shown here in a terrific combination with Plumcot Sorbet.

Finally, my faves, though I highly recommend not going overboard, as I am doing. First up are Painted Rollout Cookies, which are great fun with little kids who aren't really old enough to keep from spraying your kitchen with sprinkles. Then my Best Rollout Cookies with Powdered Sugar Icing, which are just fun for anyone to decorate, and make a great gift.

Painting cookies is serious work for a 3-year-old.

Happy baking, everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Something Old, Something New, Something Turkey

 What’s cooking? Turkey Sliders with Cranberry Sauce

In a world where many of us will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for two, it seemed unnecessarily drudge-y to make myself perform the turkey ritual just for the sake of tradition. Nothing else about this holiday has been traditional, and the Kitchen Goddess needed a challenge to her ingenuity.

We had a similar moment when, a few years ago, my son and his wife and their children were arriving the day after Thanksgiving. Not wishing to mess the house up, I served us a version of a Cuban sandwich, using turkey instead of roast pork. It was quite good and had the right amount of ease in the assembly as well as the clean-up. But it lacked imagination... inspiration... fun. So this week, I thought about turkey meatloaf, a roast turkey breast, turkey soup,... nah.

I got excited when I read in The New York Times about a place in NYC that was selling confit turkey legs – cured, then slow cooked in duck fat – and all you have to do is reheat them. Taste buds salivating, I called the store, Dickson’s Farmstand Meats at Chelsea Market. Yes, they ship them, ...but they were sold out. Apparently, I was not the only NY Times reader to see confit turkey legs as a great idea.

Finally, my brain barked, and I thought about turkey sliders. A bit of research determined that I was not the first to imagine such a treat, so I had several thoughtful presentations to consider. I most liked the one that suggested basting the burgers with cranberry sauce. And in lieu of the canned cranberry sauce suggested by Valerie Bertinelli, of all people, I knew I could make the Kitchen Goddess’s famous Cranberry Sauce with Pinot Noir. OMG -- the smells wafting from the kitchen will be enough to drive you mad.

On its own, turkey is a relatively tasteless bird, so I figured I’d goose up the savory aspect of the burgers to balance the sweetness of the cranberry sauce. I sautéed some shallots in a tiny amount of olive oil and stirred dried thyme into the shallots while they were still warm. A little ground ginger for sharpness, some garlic powder because... well, garlic. And for the pièce de résistance, a dash of fennel pollen. Oh, my. The basting kept them from drying out, and the arugula in the sandwich itself makes a real difference. I started with fresh spinach, which was quite good, but the pepperiness of the arugula really adds to the final product.

I’ll be serving mine with sweet potato fries and cole slaw, and we’ll finish the meal with Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, of course. A few traditions are really important.

Kitchen Goddess note about panko: You may already be familiar with panko breadcrumbs, which are a staple of Japanese cuisine (think tempura). These breadcrumbs are made from a crustless white bread which is processed into flakes and then dried. They have a dryer and flakier consistency than regular breadcrumbs, and as a result they absorb less oil.

Turkey Sliders with Cranberry Sauce

Makes 8 sliders.

½ cup panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs, if that’s what you have)
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ cup finely chopped shallots (no more than ¼-inch dice)
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound ground turkey (light/dark mix is more flavorful, IMHO)
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley (leaves only)
¼ teaspoon (rounded) ground ginger
¼ teaspoon (rounded) garlic powder
¼ teaspoon (rounded) fennel pollen (use ground fennel seeds if no pollen, but you really should get             some fennel pollen)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
PAM cooking oil spray (or a teaspoon of oil) for the pan
⅔ cup cranberry sauce (canned or homemade – try KG’s Cranberry         Sauce with Pinot Noir)
8 slider buns (I bought Pepperidge Farm)
Arugula (you’ll need at least 2 cups – it’s worth piling on)

Preheat the oven to 450º.

In a small bowl, mix the panko with the half-and-half until the liquid is evenly spread among the breadcrumbs. Set aside.

In a small skillet (non-stick is ok), heat the oil over medium-low, and stir in the shallots. Sauté, stirring often so the shallots don’t burn, for 8-9 minutes, until the shallots turn soft and transparent. Remove from the heat and stir in the thyme for about 30 seconds, to warm the herb. Let the mix rest for a few minutes to cool.

In a large bowl, mix the turkey, the panko/half-and-half, the shallots/thyme, and the parsley, ginger, garlic powder, fennel pollen (if using), and the salt/pepper. Using your hands, mix the ingredients just enough to get an even distribution of everything without overmixing. As with any ground meat, overhandling the meat will compact it and make your burgers tough.

Divide the mixture into 8 portions, and form into patties 2½-3 inches wide (which is almost exactly the width of the buns). Arrange the patties in a lightly oiled quarter-sheet pan (9x13 inches), and bake 5 minutes. The Kitchen Goddess lines her pan with baker’s parchment and sprays that with oil, and even that didn’t stop the cranberry liquid from running around and making a burnt sugar mess. But we must suffer for art.

Meanwhile, heat the cranberry sauce just enough to get it loose. Then, after that first 5 minutes of baking, remove the pan from the oven and ladle a couple of spoonfuls of the warm sauce over each burger. Return the pan to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes more. If you test with a meat thermometer, the center of the patties should be at least 165º.

Remove the pan from the oven and flip the patties. Spoon a little more warm sauce on them while they’re hot. Let them sit in the pan – not in the oven – for another 5 minutes, when they’ll be ready to serve.

I like to toast the buns, which takes less than a minute in a hot oven, but it’s not necessary. Pile a small bunch of arugula on the bottom of the bun, and top it with a burger. (The greens on bottom is a technique I got from one of my many foodie podcasts. The theory is that the greens keep the bread from getting soggy.) Spoon on some cranberry sauce (get some of those nice fat berries into the act), and add the top of the bun. Serving them warm is lovely, but I had one of my leftovers straight from the fridge for lunch today and it was still good. Mmmm...

We had the test batch with spinach, but the one I had today with arugula was much improved.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Despite the many traumas of the year, we have made it this far and for that we can be extremely grateful.