Ina’s Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

broccoliJust back from Niobrara, where we had some amazing meals in our cabin, especially the dinner where Ali grilled steaks!

These were ridiculously good steaks – and since we’re from Nebraska, that’s saying something.  I need to ask Ali to share his method – they were so delicious.

Anyway, nothing goes better with a great steak than Ina’s Parmesan Roasted Broccoli (I’ve included the original link for those who want it, but am including the version I made below.)

Even if you don’t like broccoli, you will love this. My kids are not huge broccoli fans and they gobbled it up!

Ingredients:

4-5 lbs. broccoli, cut into florets
4 big garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly
Olive Oil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Zest of one large lemon (1 1/2 Tbsp?)
Juice of that large lemon (2-3 Tbsp?)
1/3 cup chopped, pan-roasted walnuts
1/3 cup good Parmesan Cheese
4 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, julienned

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut broccoli into 1-2″ florets, leaving a longer piece of stem on each one. You’ll end up with about 8 cups of florets. (Don’t throw away the leftover, big stems!  Instead peel them and munch on them raw or roast them, too.  They have a lovely, delicate flavor.) Lay all out on a large baking sheet, and sprinkle the garlic slices on top. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper.

Roast for 25 – 30 minutes until the broccoli is crisp-tender and bits are just starting to brown. (Test the florets – I ended up needing an extra 5 minutes or so.)

While the broccoli is roasting, heat the walnuts in a sauce pan on medium heat, shaking frequently (think popcorn) until they start to get a nice, toasty smell. Remove from heat and put in a medium-sized bowl.

Once the walnuts have cooled a bit, add a Tbsp or so or Olive Oil, along with the lemon zest and lemon juice, reserving about 1 Tbsp of lemon juice. Stir gently.

When Broccoli is finished cooking, remove it from the oven and spread it out on a large platter. Drizzle the walnut mixture over and gently toss the broccoli. Then sprinkle the fresh basil and Parmesan on top, with an extra squeeze of the lemon juice. Delish!

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Caprese Toast!

I’ve got beautiful tomatoes, basil growing like crazy in the garden and fresh mozzarella – so naturally I think of Caprese Salad. But we wanted something a little more for supper.  We love BLTs and I thought, why not Caprese Toast?

We made this for supper and it was to die for. The Balsamic Mayonnaise is ridiculously good.  (We were all sneaking back into the kitchen and dipping the leftover tomatoes and Mozzarella into the Balsamic Mayonnaise to eat right over the counter – it was that good.)

Love when something turns out so delish and so easy!

Ingredients

Good, hearty bread for toasting (whole wheat or oatmeal)
Fresh Mozzarella, sliced
Fresh Basil, roughly sliced
Ripe tomatoes, halved and cut into slices
Arugula

Balsamic Mayonnaise:

2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 cup good Mayonnaise
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp mustard
1/4 to 1/2 tsp sugar  (add less and taste to see if it needs more)
1/8 tsp kosher salt
several grinds of black pepper

Mix balsamic mayonnaise ingredients well in a small bowl, and set it out with bowls of Mozzarella, basil, tomatoes and arugula.

Toast bread and smear with the Balsamic Mayonnaise. Top with a layer of Mozzarella, then tomatoes and basil. Drizzle a little more mayonnaise, and then add a layer of Arugula. Spread more mayonnaise on a second piece of toast, and top the sandwich.

This is a rather messy sandwich to eat, with the mayonnaise dripping out, but soooooo good!

We’ll be eating this often – I can guarantee that!

A Tale of Two Trifles: Strawberry Vanilla and Chocolate Raspberry, for a Graduation Party

Warning: this is a pretty long post, but includes some of my favorite tricks, so hopefully it will be worth it. Maybe get a fresh cup of coffee before you sit down to read it!

My daughter Maya, who is an excellent baker, decided that she couldn’t bear to have just a cake for her high school graduation party. Nope – what she really wanted is what we traditionally serve for birthdays around here: Strawberry Trifle.  It’s cool & creamy with soft custard and whipped cream, but not overly sweet.  We all love it.

I’ve shared my trifle recipe before (see link above) and it is pretty easy to make.  But honestly the thought of a giant trough of trifle is just too unappetizing to even consider. Trifle is lovely in a clear dish – until the first spoonful is removed and then it’s a sloppy mess. Delicious – but basically dessert carnage.

Fortunately, I’ve made individual trifles before and it’s a neat and lovely way to serve them. Making 100 individual servings is a little more serious endeavor, but I thought – we can do this! To add to the fun, we added Chocolate Raspberry Trifle.

Here’s how we did it:

The day before the party, we made 2 1/2 gallons of vanilla custard, and 1 1/4 gallons of chocolate custard. In hindsight I’d do the opposite, since the chocolate was a huge hit.

A triple batch of my regular recipe yields just a little more than a gallon, and my biggest pot just held a triple batch without disaster.

First trick: when making party-size quantities, reuse containers that the original ingredients came in.

After we’d made the custard, Taylor (who was helping me, God bless her!) poured the slightly cooled custard into a pitcher, put the lid on, and then poured the custard back into the empty gallon milk jugs. I also mixed up the frozen strawberries, sugar and sherry in a bowl and returned them to the frozen strawberry bag, which then just zipped shut. (Didn’t thaw or sweeten the raspberries or add anything else to them – I like the tartness they bring.)  Both milk jug and zipper bag were way easier to store in the fridge.

Second trick: buy an unfrosted chocolate cake and angel food cakes. The bakers at Costco thought we were nuts, but it worked beautifully.

Third and most important trick: We used shiny, clear plastic drinking glasses (the shorter, wider ones) and got 7 empty strawberry “tray” cartons from Costco to hold them. Each tray held 15 cups, and let us stack them neatly.

Fourth trick: on the morning of the party, we cut the cakes into 2″ pieces and put them in the bottom of each cup. Half the cups were chocolate and half were angel food. Then we covered them all with plastic wrap (just a couple of big sheets over each layer) and stacked them.

So to recap, the day before, we made the custards and sweetened the strawberries, which we stored in the refrigerator. We also had 6 cans of whipped cream and the mini-chocolate chips ready to go.

Morning of: we prepped the cups with cake.

Just before serving we dropped a nice spoonful of  fruit onto the cake, and poured about 1/3 cup custard directly out of the milk jugs onto the cake, and topped that with a spritz  of whipped cream (and sprinkled mini chocolate chips on the chocolate ones.)

Because it was a very warm day, we served the trifle cups in aluminum catering trays, nestled on top of a second tray with ice. A couple of wooden spoons in the ice kept the tray from sinking too far down, but kept the trifles nice and cool.

We were lucky enough to have two lovely young ladies helping during the party and they assembled the trifles and refilled the trays all evening.  The trifles were a hit and I know many people couldn’t resist seconds!

So for the record, here are the layers:

Chocolate Raspberry Trifle:

First layer: chocolate cake
Second layer: frozen raspberries
Third layer: chocolate custard
Fourth layer: whipped Cream
Topping: Sprinkle of Mini chocolate chips

Strawberry Trifle:

First layer: angel food cake
Second layer: strawberries, slightly sweetened and with a splash of sherry
Third layer: vanilla custard
Fourth layer: whipped Cream

We did end up with an extra 1/2 gallon of Vanilla custard, but what with one thing and another, that  has already mysteriously disappeared! (We do love our custard.)

So if you’re hosting a party and want a really “wow” dessert, try making individual trifles.

Tex-Mex Black Bean, Roasted Pepper and Rice Supper

A great vegetarian skillet supper that was simple, delicious and hearty. I didn’t really have anything much in mind for supper tonight and threw something together from what I had in the pantry and fridge. Maya loved it and I’d definitely make it again.

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp crushed Garlic
1 bag frozen fajita peppers from Trader Joe’s, or 2 fresh peppers cored and sliced into 1/4″ strips
2 Tbsp taco seasoning mix  (I used McCormicks.)
1 can black beans, drained but not rinsed
1/4 cup salsa
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cups cooked rice
1 cup Mexican or cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a skillet and saute onions until softened. Add garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add frozen fajita peppers and taco seasoning mix and saute until the liquid from the frozen peppers is mostly gone. Add the black beans, salt and pepper and the salsa. (You can add a little water if anything is sticking to the bottom of the skillet.) Cook for another 5-6 minutes stirring occasionally until the black beans are warmed through. Dump in the rice and fold the bean mixture and rice together, cooking for a few minutes until the rice is warmed. Sprinkle the cheese on top, remove from the heat and cover for a couple of minutes.

Serve hot with a simple arugula salad. Yum!

Leave off the cheese for a vegan version.

Roasted Chicken and Fennel with Garlic, Lemon, Capers, Rosemary and Thyme

I first made this recipe in 2014, and wrote “Yum-Oh!!!” on the side. (Yes, I was in a Rachael Ray phase for a while.) The original recipe is from Eden Grinshpan from Everyday Food. I made a version of it for supper a couple of nights ago, doubling the marinade and adding veggies that were at the use ’em or lose ’em stage. The marinade is super flavorful and very easy. It made a great supper with Corn Pudding, but roasting potatoes with the chicken and veggies would be good, too.

Ingredients

4 Tbsp of crushed garlic*
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1 Tbsp of dried Thyme
1 tsp of dried Rosemary leaves
1 whole lemon with peel, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of lemon juice

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs 3-4 cut into thinner cutlets
2 fennel bulbs, each cut into 8 wedges  (easier to eat that way), plus any greens growing out of the top.
4 stalks of asparagus, cut into bite-sized segments
4 carrots, scrubbed, but not peeled, cut into bite sized pieces

Mix all marinade ingredients. Pour a little into a 10×13 baking dish, and lay chicken down. Add fennel and asparagus, and drizzle all well with the marinade.  Toss lightly in the marinade.  It would probably be smart to let it sit for a bit, but I just popped everything  into a preheated 375 degree oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes. It’s delicious and the whole lemon slices are ridiculously tasty!

I think you could use just about any sturdy vegetable you have on hand. The original recipe also called for 1/2 cup Kalamata Olives, which I didn’t have, but which would probably be pretty good.

*I buy a bag of peeled garlic from Costco and puree them in the food processor with just a little olive oil. Scoop the puree into gallon ziplock bags, and smooth it into thin flat layers before putting them in the freezer. Then just break off chunks whenever you need garlic.  Be careful not to make the layers too thick or they won’t break easily!

Corn Pudding

Ree Drummond’s recipe for Corn Pudding is amazingly good.  I made it for supper the other night and we couldn’t leave it alone!  I did make some very slight changes, but mostly it is pure Ree.

Ingredients

4 strips bacon or turkey bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced (Ree used sweet onion)
1 cup flour
3/4 cup yellow corn meal
3/4 sugar
1.5 Tbsp Baking Powder
1.5 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
5 eggs
1.5 cups half & half
1/2 cup melted butter
2.5 cups fresh or frozen corn (I used a bag of Trader Joe’s frozen roasted corn)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute bacon in a large, oven-proof skillet. (I used my cast iron skillet.) Once bacon is soft, add onions and saute until onions are soft. You can remove any extra bacon drippings, but it does add wonderful flavor and I left it in.  Once cooked, remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add the corn in and mix gently.

In a mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients. In another mixing bowl, mix the eggs, half & half and butter. Gently blend the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring just until blended and there are no large dry lumps. Pour the mix into the skillet, and fold the onion, bacon and corn into the mix.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the center is just set. If you’re making it in a cast iron skillet, you will probably need the longer cook time. The roasted corn has a wonderful flavor but looks pretty awful when you cook it. If you are making this dish and need it to look pretty – just use regular frozen corn.

Sauteed Cabbage

I have never really loved cabbage.  It’s okay – but I can’t tell you how much cabbage I’ve thrown away over the years.  You need 2 cups for a salad, and then what?

But I’ve changed my tune after making sauteed cabbage.  Just like roasting brings out the mind-blowing deliciousness of so many vegetables, sauteing turns cabbage into sheer nirvana.  It gets a sweetness yet retains a nice bite.  And it’s ridiculously easy.

Ingredients:

1 cabbage, cut into 1″ squares (They will all fall apart so no need to be precise.)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 fresh ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the butter and as soon as it is mostly melted (happens quick – watch carefully) dump in all the cabbage and start stirring. If it won’t all fit in the pan, that’s okay.  You can add it in stages.

Sautee for several minutes until the cabbage is reduced and edges are starting to brown very slightly. Add the salt and pepper and stir well. Taste and check seasonings.

Serve. Devour. Yum.

That’s it. The simplest ingredients and method turn a plain Jane vegetable into a star. Leave out the butter for a vegan version.