Ina’s Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing

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Beautiful Blue Cheese by PDPhotos on Pixabay.

I made this for Christmas Morning brunch and it was delicious. Maybe my favorite blue cheese dressing ever.

For the dressing:

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup good mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

4 tender inside celery stalks, trimmed and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
6 radishes, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds
5 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts sliced

1 large head iceberg lettuce, wilted outer leaves removed and sliced into 1″ layers
4 to 6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Fleur de sel

Buzz the dressing ingredients with a buzzwand (sorry, immersion blender) in a medium pitcher until creamy and smooth.

Mix the celery, radishes and scallions in a small bowl.

For each serving, lay a slice of iceberg lettuce on a salad plate. Top with the celery mixture and pour dressing over. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and a bit of fleur de sel.

Serve immediately. The radishes and scallions add a lovely spicy bite to the creamy, fresh salad.  You might want to halve the slices if your family are not big salad eaters.

Mushroom and Roasted Tomato Cheesy Pasta Cast Iron Skillet Bake

Mushroom-and-roasted-pepperI love Christmas Eve, since we always celebrate with  my brothers and sister at my brother Ron’s house, and we all bring a dish to share for dinner.  In the middle of prepping my dish, I started to get hungry and decided to make something for lunch.  But what?

Since I hadn’t really planned anything, I just checked the fridge and came up with a recipe on the fly.  Had some mushrooms and grape tomatoes on their last legs, half a red onion I wanted to use up, some lovely pasta and two nice chunks of cheese, only one of which I was sure was Asiago.

The dish came out so delicious I actually sat down and wrote it down right away.  Here is the recipe, in stages.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and start by roasting the tomatoes, since that takes the longest.

1 package grape tomatoes
little olive oil
salt and pepper – just a good pinch of each

Put grape tomatoes in a small baking pan and roll them in the oil, salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for quite a long time, (maybe 30 minutes?) until the tomatoes have collapsed a bit and there is a nice caramelized smell. No need to stir them or mess with them at all.

Veggies:

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 packages sliced baby portabella mushrooms

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet. Add onions, peppers and seasonings and saute for a few minutes, until onion is softened. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have released their water. But don’t stop – keep cooking, stirring once in a while until the the water has dried up again.  Turn off the heat.

Pasta:

At the same time, bring a pot of salted water to boil and add 3/4 pound of any kind of pasta and cook to al dente. Drain the water and add the pasta to the veggies.

Check the tomatoes and if they’re softened, scrape them and any juices into the veggies.

Turn the oven to 350 degrees.

Create sauce:

Put the pasta pot back on the burner.

1/4 cup butter
2 Tbsp flour
/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
good pinch red pepper flakes
good pinch garlic powder

2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/4 cup some other shredded cheese – maybe it was a White Cheddar?

Melt butter in pasta pot and add flour, stirring well for a few minutes. Stir in the seasonings, then add in the chicken stock. Cook for a few minutes until the sauce is thickened a good bit, then add the shredded cheese, holding back 1/4 cup for later.

Stir until everything is nice and creamy and check the seasonings. Pour into skillet with veggies and pasta and stir gently. Top with reserved cheese and pop back into the oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is browned just a bit here and there.

Let sit for a couple minutes and serve. Soooo good!

Perfect Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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Beautiful Brussels Sprouts by Keenan Loo on Unsplash.

This recipe from Mark Bittman is a really delicious way to prepare Brussels Sprouts.  It’s perfect for big events like Thanksgiving, because you can get it totally prepped the day before and then roast it the day of. It’s also vegan and gluten-free!

Mark made it slightly differently – he browned the brussels sprouts in a cast iron skillet first, but I wanted to make a larger batch, so I just roasted them in the oven.   The key is to let them get so dark they appear to be burning.  But that just brings out the sweetness that makes them so delicious.

2 lbs brussels sprouts, washed and halved
1/3 cup olive oil
5 big cloves of garlic, cut into thin slices
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional – I forgot it and the dish was still delish!)

Mix oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a ziploc bag. Add brussel sprouts and shake well to coat the sprouts.

At this point, you can refrigerate them until you’re ready to bake or go ahead and roast them on a rimmed baking sheet at 450 for 30 minutes.  You may want to go in halfway through and shake them up a bit.  Check seasoning and serve. They will literally disappear.

Potato Poblano Bundles

There is something about a potato that’s been baked in a buttery, spicy sauce that is incredibly warming and satisfying.  This dish is easy and cooked in little foil bundles that are super fun to open at the table.

The recipe is from The Pioneer Woman magazine with slight variations.

2 lbs. thin skinned potatoes cut into 1″ chunks
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large poblano peppers, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
1 stick of butter (or 1/2 cup Olive Oil for a vegan version)
1/2 cup half and half (or veggie broth for vegan version)
2 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley or 2 Tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, mix butter, half ‘n half and all seasonings. Mix well, and add the potatoes, onions and peppers.

Take aluminum foil and cut off 8 18″ pieces. Place 1/8 of the mix in the middle of each foil square and fold up the edges to create a pouch.

At this point, you can grill them for 25 minutes (you’ll have to turn them so make sure they are tightly sealed.) If you prefer you can also bake them at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Check one for doneness – the potatoes should be super soft.

Serve right in the foil packets.

 

Grilled Flank Steak with Charred Eggplant and Mint

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Eggplant by Deviyahya on Unsplash

This is another great recipe from the Slow Food Fast column in the Wall Street Journal,  from chefs Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hersheimer.

We made this with the last of the eggplant from the garden tonight and it was easy and good. It’s also a great way to use mint before the first freeze.  Makes enough for 4 hungry people.

Ingredients:

2 lbs. flank steak
6 tbsp Olive Oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 small globe or Japanese eggplants, halved. (If you use regular size eggplants, cut them into 1″ slices, lengthwise.)
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, smashed or 1/2- 1 tsp garlic powder (use more if you love garlic!)
a good pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

Pat steak dry and use a sharp knife to lightly cut a crosshatch pattern on both sides. Drizzle with Tbsp olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper on both sides.

In a big bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the eggplants and stir until everything is well coated. Remove the eggplants to a plate and to the remaining sauce in the bowl, add garlic, red pepper flakes and mint leaves. Stir gently to blend.

Grill steak on high heat until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side, then remove from heat, cover and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

While steak is resting, lay eggplants cut side down and grill 4-5 minutes. Then flip and grill 4-5 more minutes. Remove from heat and add back into the bowl with mint sauce. Toss gently to coat.

Slice steaks thinly across the grain, and serve with eggplants and mint sauce. So delish and so fast!

Note: this recipe would also be wonderful with lamb, or for a vegan version, with cauliflower steaks!

Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

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Butternut Squash Image by Nick Collins on Pixabay.

I’ve made this salad from Ina Garten a dozen times and it is so good there’s never any left.  It’s a perfect fall salad with all the gorgeous colors of the squash, arugula and walnuts.  Thank you Ina for another wonderful recipe!

Ingredients:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4″ pieces (about 4 cups)
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Tbsp real maple syrup (you can substitute honey if you want to)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp Craisins

For the warm cider vinaigrette:
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice (I use Martinelli’s Apple Juice in the little apple bottle if we don’t have cider on hand. It’s so good – you should keep some in your pantry.)
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp minced shallots
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

4 oz baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese  (use Vegan Parmesan if you wish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix 2 Tbsp olive oil, maple syrup, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Place squash on a sheet pan and pour mix over. Toss with your hands until well coated.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until tender, turning squash over after 10 minutes. Add Craisins for last 5 minutes. When you add the Craisins, add a small baking pan with the walnuts and let toast for 5 minutes. Watch that the walnuts don’t burn!

Let squash sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes while you make the vinaigrette.

In a small saucepan, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 6-8 minutes until about 1/4 cup is left. Take off heat and whisk in mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Pour 2/3 of the vinaigrette over and toss well.  (We don’t like our salad dripping with dressing but if you do – be bold and toss it all in.)

Serve immediately while the dressing and squash are warm. So good!

Eggplant, Tomato and Onion Pie

eggplant-and-tomato-pie

Made this for supper last night and it was so good! Based very loosely on a recipe I found online – it is super satisfying and requires no meat.  I used a really good Tillamook Cheddar cheese, but any good sharp cheddar would do.  It uses slices of tomatoes in place of crust, and is wonderful warmed up the next day.

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant, unpeeled and diced into 3/4″ pieces
4 big Roma tomatoes, sliced (other tomatoes would be fine, too)
1 onion, rough chopped
4 cloves garlic,crushed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried basil
1 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

In a saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to the boil and add eggplant. On medium-high heat, cook eggplant, stirring frequently,until eggplant is very soft and water is mostly evaporated. (Took about 8 minutes for me.)

Heat olive oil and butter in a frying pan. Add onions and cook until soft, 5-6 minutes. Make a well in the middle of the pan, add a little more olive oil and add garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.

Add onions and garlic to eggplant mixture and allow to cool slightly. Add salt, pepper, basil, breadcrumbs and egg to eggplant mixture and stir well.

Lightly oil the bottom of a pie pan, and layer 1/2 of the sliced tomatoes on the bottom. Season tomatoes with a little pinch of salt and pepper.  Pour the eggplant mixture over the tomatoes and smooth the top. Layer the rest of the tomatoes on top, season lightly again with salt and pepper and sprinkle cheddar cheese over.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Then turn on the broiler and heat another 4 minutes so cheese is well melted and just starting to brown in spots.

Remove from oven, allow to rest a few minutes and serve. So delish!

Panzanella Salad

Ina Garten shared a recipe for the 4th of July that we ended up loving – Panzanella Salad.  It is fresh, easy and hearty enough to be a main dish for lunch.

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 loaf of French Bread, cut into 1″ cubes (ends up being 6 cups)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes cut into 1″ cubes

1 cucumber, unpeeled, halved and seeded, sliced 1/2″ thick
1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1″ cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp capers, drained

Vinaigrette
1 tsp crushed garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar (Ina uses Champagne vinegar but I didn’t have any)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the 3 Tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan. Add bread and salt and cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently for 10 minutes or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.

Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients

In a nice large bowl, mix tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, red onion, basil and capers. Toss with vinaigrette, and then add bread cubes and toss again. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Can serve right away or after a half hour.

Delish.  Thanks for another fabulous recipe, Ina!

Caitlin’s Curried Avocado Toast

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Avocados by twinsfisch on Unsplash

My friend Caitlin is a wonderful cook and she made curried avocado toast the other day that was delicious. Don’t know why I never thought of putting a spin on avocado toast, but why not?  Avocados are not a common food in the Indian Subcontinent at all, but putting those flavors together is incredibly good.

Ingredients:

1 avocado, seeded and peeled and very slightly mashed in a bowl
sprinkle of curry powder (Caitie used Madras Curry Powder)
pinch of Cayenne pepper
quick grind of black pepper
sprinkle of Maldon Salt

Toast a good, hearty bread. Scoop avocado onto toast and sprinkle with rest of ingredients. Devour.

Variations: Caitie also suggested an alternative of avocado, salt and pepper and chopped fresh rosemary, which I will definitely try. She also said avocado toast made on Herbes de Provence bread is amazing. I have a feeling this is going to be a summer of Avocado Toast at our house!

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

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Beautiful image of peppers by Csengele Horn-Barta from Unsplash.

Ree Drummond has a wonderful recipe for roasted pepper soup that I will make often – since it’s easy and so good. I did make a few changes, but stayed pretty true to Ree’s recipe.

Normally I always drain and rinse canned veggies, but because the peppers were in a glass jar, I tasted the red pepper jar liquid.  It wasn’t very salty and had lots of pepper flavor, so I tossed it in, too. Not sure if that breaks some kind of kitchen “law” – but it tasted great.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped dry oregano, or 2 tsp fresh oregano, minced
1 good-sized russet potato, peeled and chopped into ½” cubes
3 jars (12 oz each) roasted red peppers, sliced – plus the jar liquid
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup half n half (Ree uses heavy cream)
1 tbsp cider vinegar (Ree uses red wine vinegar)
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add potato, roasted peppers, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Mix well and let cook for 5 minutes.

Add white wine and let it cook down for 3-4 minutes. Then add the stock and pepper jar liquid. Cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes, checking to see that the potatoes are nice and soft. Remove from heat, and buzz with an immersion blender until everything is fairly smooth. Add cider vinegar, butter and 1/2 and 1/2 and let heat for a minute or two. Check seasonings.

Serve with fresh grated parmesan sprinkled on top. So good – and even better the next day.

I also stirred in a tsp of butter at the end, so you could do that too.

For a vegan version – leave out the 1/2 and 1/2 and butter, or substitute vegan butter.