All Posts Tagged ‘How To

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sunday brunch: tina’s favorite breakfast sandwich.

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GUYS. Guys. Big news over here at Plumber’s Daughter. It took 35 long years, but I think I’ve finally landed on a favorite food. Say what?! Yes, it’s true. This may be an easy choice for you; for me, it’s a constant struggle. Do I choose a cuisine? A dish? A piece of meat or a vegetable? OH, THE STRUGGLE.

But. I had a good think about it, put on my big girl pants, and made a decision. And my decision is that I am hopelessly in love with the classic that is a perfect breakfast sandwich. It brings me a level of joy rarely achieved by other things, and I savor every single bite anytime this business lands on my plate.

So now I’m committed. I’ve chosen. I’m ready to get serious. Me and my breakfast sandwich can live happily ever after in favorite food harmony. Can I get a YUM and a HECK YES and a WOOOOO.

If you, too, would like to experience the level of joy I feel digging into this little ditty, I suggest you follow this lovely little recipe. It’s a traditional take on a breakfast sandwich — the rich, buttery flavor of over easy eggs, the salty, chewiness of thick cut bacon, the crunch of a perfectly toasted English muffin. Add in a little sharp cheddar for a kick and some dressed greens for a little tang and you’re in business. Serve with a small salad, some sliced fruit or your fave breakfast potatoes and you’ve got a banner meal to start your day.

It’s my favorite, and I can’t wait to dig in. Shall we?

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Tina’s Breakfast Sandwich
Serves: 2 (makes 2 sandwiches)

You will need:

2 English muffins, split in half
4 strips thick-cut bacon
2 eggs
4 thin slices sharp cheddar or 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter plus more for spreading
½ cup greens, such as arugula, mache, or spinach
lemon juice & olive oil or your favorite vinaigrette
garlic salt
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kitchen equipment: small nonstick sauté pan, medium sauté pan, metal spatula, tongs

Fry the bacon. Starting with a cold medium sauté pan, add bacon strips in a single layer. Turn the heat on medium-low. As the pan heats, the bacon will begin to sizzle and the fat will render. Once the bacon begins to curl and shrink, you can flip the pieces using your tongs and continue to cook. Everyone has their favorite way to serve bacon, so it’s really up to you how much longer you cook it. Obviously the longer you cook it, the crispier it will be, and don’t forget that it will continue to cook a bit longer after you pull it from the pan. Once the bacon is cooked to your liking, remove from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Set aside.

Toast the English muffins. One of my favorite elements of a good breakfast sandwich is the crunch of the bread, whatever bread you may be using. You want the bread to be appropriately crispy as a nice texture contrast to the egg and bacon, but you don’t want it to be so crispy that it becomes difficult to eat. To get the perfect crunch, you can either toast the English muffins in your toaster on a light setting, or my preferred method, which is to spread a bit of butter on the muffins, season with salt and pepper, then place under the broiler in your oven for 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven or toaster and set aside. You’ll toast these again when you melt the cheese, so don’t worry if they’re not quite crunchy enough yet.

Cook the eggs. This step is by far the trickiest. Cooking a perfect egg is still something I’m working on myself, but if you master the right technique, you’ll at least produce something delicious. You may have to practice a bit before it’s actually delicious AND pretty.

To get started, heat your small nonstick sauté pan over low heat and add one tablespoon butter. Crack your eggs into a small bowl or ramekin. Once the butter is fully melted and has stopped foaming, add the eggs to the pan and immediately lift the handle of the pan about an inch off the stove so the eggs pool in the far end of the pan. Hold for about 30 seconds, then slowly lower the pan. This simple step will ensure that the whites of the egg don’t spread all over the pan and will allow for easier flipping later.

Season the eggs with salt and pepper, and cook until the whites turn opaque, shaking every once in awhile to ensure they don’t stick. And now comes the flipping. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and maybe give yourself a little pep talk. You can do this, I promise. When you’re ready, raise the pan about a foot off the stove, and in a confident motion, push the pan away from you and then pull back towards you as the eggs flip. If you don’t get it the first time, try again. If all else fails, take your metal spatula and give the eggs a little push.

After successfully flipping the egg, count slowly to 10 then flip again for an over easy egg, more like 30-45 for an over medium. I don’t mess with eggs that are more than over easy, but if you prefer a firmer egg, just continue to cook until it’s to your liking.

Once you’ve flipped the egg back to its original size, it’s basically done, so you can slide it out of the pan onto a plate. Set aside and turn your attention back to the muffins.

Melt the cheese. Turn on the broiler in your oven if it’s not on already. Take your pre-toasted English muffins and add one slice or a good pinch of shredded cheddar to each. Place under the broiler, and watching closely, melt the cheese until it is bubbling and slightly browned. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a pinch of garlic salt.

Dress the greens. Wash and pat dry your greens, then add them to a small bowl. If you’re using lemon and olive oil, add about a teaspoon of each, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently until coated evenly.

Bring it all together. OK, game time. Take your melty, cheese muffins and place them on your serving plate. Place an egg on two of them. Top each egg with two slices of bacon and a small handful of greens. Top the sandwich with the spare muffins.

Consume immediately. Get messy with it. Let the egg run all down your arm and don’t even worry about it. The mess it worth the experience of this salty, cheesy, rich and tangy wonder.

There are a million ways to make a breakfast sandwich, and I’m sure about 956,874 of those ways are fantastic. But this one is mine. It’s simple, it’s traditional, and it’s crazy delicious. You do you, I’m stickin’ with mine. Enjoy!

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sunday dinner: sausage & green garlic flatbread with seasoned ricotta.

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Real talk: I didn’t want to move to Portland.

When I think back to the moment I chose to uproot my life and relocate back to the West Coast, I would be lying if I said it was a moment of excitement. Mostly it felt stressful and uncertain and my heart was heavy. I knew it was the right decision — hell, it was an easy one once the reality of my father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis sunk in — but it wasn’t a happy one. I dragged my feet when it came to planning the details of the move, and I had to completely fake a smile when others asked me to ‘share the exciting details’. I was all smiles on the outside, all ho hum on the inside. The morning I left New York, I sobbed all the way to the airport; in such dramatic fashion that at one point my Uber driver handed me a tissue and turned the radio up to drown out the sound of my crying.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love Portland when I lived here before, I truly did. My time in Portland is the reason my life since that time has been so incredible. But still, the entire venture, even with an incredible job and an instant set of friends who were more like family and the close proximity of my actual family; it all felt like one giant step backwards. I had lived all over the world, accomplished amazing things, and my next big thing was a move…to Portland? I was heartbroken in a number of ways, not the least of which was feeling like my life was headed in a direction I didn’t want.

Flash forward five months and I’m standing in the middle of the farmers’ market at Portland State University. It’s an overcast but warm Saturday morning, and the market is a-buzz with locals hunting for the freshest the farm can offer. And it was there, standing over a basket bursting with green garlic and microgreens that I realized, I. LOVE. IT. HERE. I’m so goddamn happy I could scream.

Is my life different than it was in New York? Absolutely. But that’s OK. My job is incredible. My friendships are strong and mature and even better than they were before (that goes for my friends in Portland AND my friends in New York). I’m closer (physically and emotionally) to my family, which brings me peace of mind. And I have completely fallen back in love with the city of Portland. It has given me the balance I so dearly needed, and I’ve been able to slow down a bit and really enjoy life. Turns out, all of the anxiety was complete rubbish, but it took moving across the country and making a go of it to figure that out. I still miss New York; I always will, it’s in my bones. But the idea that I made the wrong decision or that I have any shred of regret is completely out of my head. This is my home, and I am gloriously happy to be here.

So. In a bit of a tribute to my farmers’ market revelation, this recipe is made up of only ingredients from the market (except the pizza dough and the cheese). It’s something I’ve been tossing around in my head for awhile, and I’m excited to finally put in on the plate. And it’s seasonal as all get out and a perfect meal to celebrate all the beauty of Spring. Salty, spicy, herby, delicious.

I’ll be enjoying this on the balcony of my new Portland abode (I can afford a balcony now! Take that, NYC.), relishing the fact that it all worked out and I’ll be OK. Moving to Portland certainly wasn’t the step forward I had imagined, but it definitely wasn’t a step backward either.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Sausage & Green Garlic Flatbread with Seasoned Ricotta
Serves: 2

You will need:

2 links fresh, uncooked sausage, removed from the casing
3 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced, white & green parts separated (you can substitute 3-4 green onions if you can’t find green garlic)
5 spears asparagus, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 pound pizza dough, divided in two
1 small ball fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
3 tablespoons grated parmesan or pecorino romano
½ cup fresh ricotta
1 meyer lemon, zested and cut into 4 wedges
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 bunch microgreens or baby arugula

Kitchen equipment: large baking sheet or pizza stone, sauté pan, zester, parchment paper

Prep the dough. First things first, remove your pizza dough from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. I typically do this about an hour before I start cooking. By bringing to room temp, the dough will be much easier to work with, will stretch nicely, and won’t seize up in the oven and create a weird thick, doughy center. Nobody wants that.

OK, now that’s taken care of, place your baking sheet or pizza stone in your oven and preheat to 475 degrees. It’s getting hot in herrrrre…

Prep the toppings. While the oven is preheating, prep your veggies and set aside. Cook the sausage in a sauté pan over medium heat until nicely browned, breaking up into small pieces with a spoon, about 6 minutes. Remove from the pan to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Wipe out the pan, add a touch of olive oil, then add the white parts of the green garlic. Season with salt and pepper and sauté over medium heat until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes, then add them to the plate with the sausage.

Prep the flatbread. Next, lay down a piece of parchment paper on your countertop and stretch each of the pizza dough halves to about 1/4 inch thick, drizzling each with a little bit of olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Toppings are next, but a word of warning first: less is more when it comes to flatbread. You want to distribute toppings in thin layers — this will ensure everything cooks evenly, and it will allow the flatbread to cook crisply all the way through. Too many toppings equals soggy middle crust, not a desirable outcome in my book. OK, you’ve been warned, on with the show!

Distribute the mozzarella, parmesan, and asparagus slices evenly over both pizzas, leaving about a 1 inch border on all sides. Top with the sausage and green garlic mixture, the green garlic tops, and another dusting of parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Now the tricky part. Once your oven is fully preheated and your baking sheet or pizza stone is nice and toasty, remove it from the oven and transfer (carefully please, safety first!) the flatbread onto the hot surface. This shouldn’t be too difficult to do with the aid of the parchment, but still, look alive.

Cook the flatbread. Cook the flatbread for about 10 minutes, rotating once and watching semi-closely to ensure nothing is burning. At the 10-minute mark, turn off the oven and turn on the broiler. Move the pizza to the top shelf and broil for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling and the crust is golden brown.

Prep the garnish. While the flatbread is cooking, combine the ricotta, the lemon zest and juice from 2 lemon wedges. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Place the microgreens in a large bowl and add juice of one lemon wedge and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

Bring it all together. When the pizza is finished cooking, remove from the oven, and set aside to rest for a few minutes. Just before serving, top the pizza with the seasoned ricotta in whatever way suits your fancy, a smattering of the red pepper flakes if you’re using them, and garnish with the dressed microgreens.

This little ditty is best eaten immediately (let’s be honest, I won’t actually make it all the way to my fancy balcony because I can’t wait to sit down to eat), and pairs beautifully with whatever is your favorite wine of the moment (mine’s a toss up between Elk Cove Pinot Gris or Mandrarossa Nero D’avola).

It’s salty and cheesy and herby with just the right amount of spice, and it allows the farmers’ market ingredients to really shine. Delicious all around, a perfect celebration of Spring, and for me, a perfect celebration of Portland. Enjoy!

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superbowl sunday: dip extravaganza — zesty guacamole, caramelized onion dip & buffalo chicken dip.

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It’s here. Superbowl Sunday. The most all-American, flag wavin’, gun totin’, bald eagle flyin’, praise the Lord Baby Jesus day of the year (sorry, Independence Day). And even with all of the celebration and the hype, here I sit, a ball of nerves. My father raised me right, and by right, I mean he raised me to be a GODDAMN DENVER BRONCOS FAN. I bleed orange and blue. And yet, I’m just so nervous. I’m fully convinced, irrationally so, that I am a bad luck charm for my favorite team. That I have some ridiculous ability to change the outcome of the game from my couch, from my apartment, all the way from Portland, Oregon. I know. I know. Despite this, I will be watching the game, albeit through hands over my eyes, and I’m guessing my heart rate won’t return to normal until well after the final whistle is blown.

So, in an effort to calm my nerves and distract me from curling up in the fetal position on my couch, I’m spending my time in the kitchen (in full view of the TV, obviously). And what am I making, you might ask?

Well, ALL THE DIPS IN THE LAND, of course. I know buffalo wings are the Superbowl food of choice, and there will be wings on the table today, but I usually rely on the talents of my friendly neighborhood wing joint to handle those (Fire on the Mountain, HOLLAH). But the dips? The dips are all me. And there are three of them. I like a bit of variety in my ‘dip buffet’, if you will, something hot, something creamy, something zesty. Nothing revolutionary here, you’ll be able to find many versions of these recipes all over the place, but why fix something that ain’t broke, am I right? There’s a reason these are classics. And when you up the ante of making them from scratch, well, that’s a winning play in my book (see what I did there?).

All of these beauties can be made in under an hour and they will add some serious delicious to your game day spread. May one or make them all, regardless of your choice, you’ll have something to cheer about.

I’ll be over here cheering for my beloved Broncos, trying to get through the game without passing out or crying.

GO BRONCOS. DIPS NOT DABS, Y’ALL.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Zesty Guacamole
Makes 2 cups

3 large avocados
½ red onion, chopped
2 jalapeños, finely chopped
2 limes, juiced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serve with: Tortilla chips

Make the guacamole. Chop the onion, cilantro, garlic and jalapeños and add to a medium mixing bowl. Slice the avocados in half and scoop out the flesh, adding to the mixing bowl. Squeeze lime juice over the top of avocados. Using a fork, mash the avocado and mix thoroughly with other ingredients. Guacamole should be somewhat chunky (horrible word), so don’t mash too aggressively. Once fully mixed, squeeze a little lime juice over the top and cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole (this will prevent browning) and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Caramelized Onion Dip
Makes 2 cups

3 sweet yellow onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cup sour cream
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon white pepper

Serve with: Ruffled potato chips or kettle chips (you need a sturdy chip for this dip)

Make the Onion Dip. Peel the onions and cut in half through the root. Slice the onions thinly into half moons, then add to the skillet with two tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until onions are very soft and translucent. Add vinegar and cook an additional 10-15 minutes until onions are golden brown and jammy. Remove from heat and place onions into medium mixing bowl. Refrigerate onions to cool them quickly

Once the onions are completely cool, add sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic powder and white pepper to the mixing bowl. Mix all ingredients thoroughly, then refrigerate for at least one hour or up to one day prior to serving.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
Makes 3-4 cups

1 rotisserie chicken
8oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup blue cheese dressing
½ cup hot sauce or buffalo wing sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot
½ cup blue cheese crumbles, plus extra for topping
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus extra for topping
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Chopped scallions for garnish

Serve with: Tortilla chips, preferably Tostitos Scoops and celery sticks

Kitchen Equipment: large skillet, 1 large and 2 medium mixing bowls, 1 baking dish, 3 serving dishes

Make the Buffalo Chicken Dip. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the skin from the chicken and discard, then remove all chicken meat from the bones. Roughly chop the chicken into bite sized-ish pieces and add to large mixing bowl. Add cream cheese, dressing, hot sauce, blue and cheddar cheeses and spices to the chicken and mix until thoroughly combined.

Pour mixture into baking dish and spread evenly. Top with additional cheddar cheese and blue cheese crumbles. Bake for 20 minutes until warmed through and bubbling. Remove dip from oven.

Turn the broiler on and move oven shelf into top position. Return the dip to the oven and broil for 3-5 minutes until cheese topping is bubbling and golden brown. Remove from oven and top with chopped scallions. Serve immediately.

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sunday dinner: thai beef with basil over coconut rice.

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Sometimes, you get to the end of a rough week, and you just want something easy and satisfying, you know? This week was especially that for me, mostly because I spent the last 6 days laid up on the couch with a badly sprained ankle (hint: don’t fall down stairs; also, I’m fine, just a clumsy idiot) and was going completely stir crazy. I wanted the opportunity to get out of the house, both for fresh air and for contact with other humans, but I still don’t have the stamina or the stability to stand on my foot for more than 30 minutes, so if I was going to make a special trip, it needed to be for something that packed a big punch of flavor without a huge amount of effort to get there.

So what I’m saying is, this thai beef with basil served over coconut rice is the perfect dish for those with minor injuries, those who haven’t left their homes in a week, and those looking for a quick, deliciously flavorful meal any ol’ day of the week. I’m guessing most of you fall into that last category, but I thought I’d lay it all out there just in case. This dish is also very accommodating where substitutions are concerned, so if you’re not a beef person, feel free to sub in ground pork, ground turkey, or even some finely chopped extra-firm tofu.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Thai Beef with Basil over Coconut Rice
Serves: 4

For the Beef:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 lb ground beef
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 small chiles, such as red thai, serrano or jalapeño, 1 chopped, 1 thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
3 cups fresh basil leaves (I used a mix of regular basil and thai basil)
½ cup chicken broth
2 medium carrots, shredded
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1-2 teaspoons sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Coconut Rice:
2 cups jasmine rice
2 ½ cups boiling water
1 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Zest from one lime

Kitchen equipment: 2-quart pot, large skillet

Cook the rice. Rinse the rice thoroughly with cold water until water runs clear, then set aside. Bring the water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat in your 2 quart pot. Once boiling, add the coconut milk, sugar, salt and lime zest, stirring to incorporate. The coconut milk might look a little wonky at this stage, but don’t fret, it will all come together as it heats. Once the mixture is simmering nicely, add the rice and stir. Bring the rice and liquid back to a low simmer, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 15 minutes undisturbed, then turn off heat and allow rice to steam for an additional 5-10 minutes. Lift the lid and fluff the rice just before serving.

Prep the slaw and sauce. In a medium size bowl, mix the shredded carrot, the thinly sliced chile, the green parts of the scallions, and one cup of basil leaves. Add one tablespoon lime juice and one tablespoon oil and toss to incorporate. Set aside and turn your attention to the beef.

In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and remaining lime juice. Stir until sugar is fully dissolved and set aside.

Cook the beef. Place your large skillet on the stove and add one tablespoon oil, the garlic, the chopped chile and the white parts of the scallion. Set your burner to high and cook the aromatics just until fragrant, about 30 seconds to one minute, stirring frequently. Add the beef to the pan and season with salt and pepper, breaking the meat apart with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook for about 10 minutes over high heat until beef is cooked through and nicely browned. Finally, add the chicken broth and the remaining two cups basil, cooking for another two minutes or so, until the broth has reduced and the basil is wilted.

Bring it all together. Spoon a bit of rice into the bottom of a bowl, then top with your desired amount of beef. Top with slaw, then drizzle the sauce over all.

An easy dinner that comes together quickly and is a real crowd pleaser, no matter your malady. Enjoy!

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sunday dinner: gnocchi pomodoro with fresh mozzarella.

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Guys. Hi! Guess what? I moved to Portland, Oregon. Say whaaaaat?! Yes, Plumber’s Daughter has gone West. Well, returned to the West is more accurate. My roots are here, my family is here, and now, after a nine year stint away, I’m here.

This was a big move, and one that came about rather quickly. To be honest, I wasn’t ready. New York and I were in a committed, long term relationship. He was about to put a ring on it. But, as Hugh Laurie so astutely observes, ‘It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready,’ so here I am, in a new/old city, writing a new chapter. And you know what? So far so good.

Here are the things that have happened since I moved to Portland:

  1. It’s been raining like a motherfucker. Harsh words, yes, but when Oregon is breaking rain records, you know it’s serious. Where oh where have you gone, my beloved sunshine? Can we please do lunch soon? Call me.
  2. I’ve taken up loom weaving. Hey, if you’re going to move to the hipster capital of America, you should probably take up a super obscure craft. Here’s to many a sexy afternoon spent in a yarn store.
  3. So much has changed, and yet, so little has changed. I drove (drove!) past the Thai restaurant I basically lived in in college and it’s still freaking there. Fried bananas and thai iced tea for life, y’all. At the same time, entire new neighborhoods have sprung up that didn’t exist when I lived here before (did you know that Portland also has a neighborhood named Brooklyn? I sure didn’t).
  4. New city, new chapter, new JOB. Three weeks in and I’ve figured out where my office is and where the cafeteria is. That’s success in my book. #onboarding

I’m on the right track here in the PNW, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss New York. The city will forever live in my heart, and will always be a major player in my kitchen. One of the last dinners I had in NYC was at one of my faves, Frank, a tiny hole in the wall East Village red sauce joint. It’s classic New York. Classic Italian. And you don’t go to Frank without ordering the gnocchi. A straight forward dish, Frank’s gnocchi is simply red sauce and pasta with a little basil. And yet, it’s the most comforting thing you’ll ever eat, and it’s one of the things I miss most about the city that never sleeps.

My version of gnocchi and red sauce has a few ingredients not seen in Frank’s version, namely the welcome addition of fresh mozzarella. It captures the spirit of Frank, and the spirit of New York City, and it will be my go to when I miss the city the most.

This dish is a breeze to bring together — if you can boil water and operate an oven, you can master this business. Enjoy it with some good crusty bread to soak up the extra sauce, a big ol’ glass of red wine, and friends/loved ones who won’t judge you for making weird guttural noises at the table and licking the bowl because it’s just that good.

If I can’t be in NYC, this is certainly the second best option.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Gnocchi Pomodoro with Fresh Mozzarella
Serves: 4 appetizer portions or 2 entree portions

You will need:

¼ cup plus one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs fresh oregano
4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh basil plus more for garnish
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ yellow onion, diced
1 28-oz can tomatoes, diced or crushed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup half and half
1 package fresh gnocchi pasta
10 small cherry-sized fresh mozzarella balls, halved
½ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

Kitchen equipment: large oven safe sauté pan, large pot

Ahhhh, just looking at the ingredients of this dish gets me all kinds of excited. So much YUM up in here.

Start the pomodoro sauce. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add all of the fresh herbs (with the exception of the basil to be used for garnish) and toss quickly to coat the herbs in the oil. Cook for approximately 5 minutes until the herbs are crisp. The goal here is to infuse the herb flavor into the oil which will bring a brightness to the pomodoro sauce. Once the herbs are crisp, remove them from the oil and discard. Add the garlic and onions to the oil and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 5-7 minutes, turning the heat down slightly if necessary so you don’t burn the garlic (burnt garlic = bitter = bad).

Add the tomatoes to the garlic/onion mixture, making sure to include all the juices from the can. Stir to incorporate and season with salt, pepper and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes until the sauce reduces and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in half and half.

Cook the pasta. Heat some generously salted water to boiling in a large pot. Add the gnocchi and cook for approximately 3 minutes, until pasta floats to the top of the water. Remove the cooked gnocchi from the water and immediately transfer to the pan with the pomodoro sauce, spreading evenly.

Bring it all together. Set your oven to broil, ensuring you have an oven rack in the top position. Add the halved mozzarella balls to the pasta and sauce, distributing evenly among the gnocchi. Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top of the pasta and mozzarella and drizzle with the extra tablespoon of olive oil. Season with a bit more pepper and red pepper flakes if you like. Place the pan in the oven on the top rack and broil for 5-7 minutes, watching closely, until the cheese is melted and the gnocchi are crisp and golden brown. Remove from oven, top with basil garnish and serve immediately.

Warm and rich and cozy and bright, all with a little kick. New York City in a bowl. The perfect reminder of my favorite city, and something to cherish in the new place I call home.

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thanksgiving week 2015: sour cream apple pie.

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We made it! It’s the big day. Happy Thanksgiving to all. I’ll be spending my day mostly in the kitchen, managing the oven schedule, checking in on progress, and making use of all those vegetables that we chopped and prepped yesterday. We’ll sit down to eat about 4pm and relish in and be thankful for all that we have. It will be a small, cozy feast, but oh, such a good one.

The crown jewel on any proper Thanksgiving feast, in my opinion, is a really great pie. So, with that in mind, I present to you a really great pie. Sour Cream Apple Pie is something I didn’t know existed until about 8 years ago, and when I found the recipe for this, I was immediately intrigued. It has the fresh fruitiness of an apple pie with the rich custard of a pumpkin pie, and when you put those together on a homemade pie crust and add a streusel topping (my favorite), you’ve got a true gem. It’s supremely delicious, and now I’m here to share it with you. I’m thankful for all of you today, dear readers; all of you and this pie.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Sour Cream Apple Pie
Serves: 8

You will need:

For the crust:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced into small pieces
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3-5 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
5 medium apples, peeled and sliced thinly (I usually use Granny Smith, but any sweet/tart variety will do)
1¼ cup sour cream
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg

For the topping:
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced into small pieces
½ cup pecans, chopped

Kitchen equipment: pie dish, pastry cutter (optional), two large mixing bowls, one small mixing bowl, tin foil

Make the dough. First things first, make some pie dough. Remember, as I’ve told you before, the key to perfect pie dough is keeping everything as cold as possible. I’ve even started keeping my flour in the freezer. Don’t even think about using room temperature butter or water here; your results will be infinitely better if all ingredients are nice and chilly.

To bring the dough together, mix your flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add in the chilled butter, and using your hands or a pastry cutter, push the butter into the flour mixture. Your goal is a sandy textured mix with a bunch of different sized butter pieces (this is where the magic happens). This should only take a few minutes to accomplish, and the less manhandling of the butter, the better. Once you’ve achieved the correct consistency, mix 3 tablespoons of ice water with the apple cider vinegar and drizzle over the top of the dry ingredients. Begin to incorporate the water/vinegar into the other ingredients by running your hands through the dough and gently beginning to bring things together. If after a few minutes your dough is still looking a little dry and things aren’t coming together, you can add an additional 2 tablespoons of ice water, one at a time, until the dough just starts to come together in a ball. It will still have a shaggy texture, which is what you’re looking for, so don’t overwork or overwater your dough.

Once the dough has come together, take it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and give it a couple of kneads (but not too many). Finally, flatten the dough into a round disc, tightly wrap in plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Prep the filling. While the dough is chilling, let’s turn our attention to the filling. The most labor intensive part of this process is peeling and slicing the apples, so do that first. You want to slice your apples as thin as possible — if you have a mandolin, use it. Once your apples are peeled and sliced, place them in a large bowl and squeeze a little lemon juice over the top to prevent browning.

In your other large mixing bowl, whisk together the rest of the filling ingredients until fully incorporated, smooth and shiny. Add in the apples and toss to coat completely. Set aside.

Make the streusel topping. Mix the flour, oats, sugar and salt together in a small mixing bowl. Add the butter pieces, and in the same way you did with the pie crust, push the butter into the dry ingredients until well incorporated and sandy. Mix in the pecans and set aside.

Bring it all together. OK, let’s put this baby together. First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Remove your pie dough from the refrigerator, and roll it out on a floured board or counter top. Transfer to your pie dish, pushing the dough into the edges of the dish and crimping the edges.

Pour the apple filling into the pie shell carefully, smoothing out any wayward pieces as you go. Pour any leftover filling over the apples and spread evenly. Tear off a few strips of tin foil and cover the edges of the pie crust to prevent them from burning.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Take the pie out of the oven at this point, and sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the pie. Place the pie back in the oven and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove the foil covers in the last 5 minutes of baking so the edges of the crust can brown properly.

Remove the pie from the oven and cool completely. Serve on its own or with a little bit of vanilla ice cream. YUM.

Happy Thanksgiving all! I wish you and yours the best of days. xx

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thanksgiving week 2015: donna’s cranberry sauce and roasted root vegetables with rosemary & parmesan.

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The next entry in the lead up to the big day? A classic accompaniment and a twist on a traditional side.

First things first, let’s talk about cranberry sauce. Some people love it, some people think it’s wholly unnecessary. I happen to fall into the former camp and think that those in the latter camp must have only experienced cranberry sauce from a can. Which is basically illegal in the Radeke household.

Once you’ve tasted homemade cranberry sauce — one with warm spices and a hint of orange, you’ll seriously examine your life for what’s been missing all these years. It’s a revelation that was bestowed upon us long ago by a dear family friend, and my defacto Aunt growing up, Donna. Donna’s cranberry sauce is rich and a little boozy and it’s sweet/tart flavor pairs perfectly with the buttery flavors found on the rest of the table. It’s a never miss in this house, and it should be in yours too.

As for the next recipe, it’s a different take on a classic Thanksgiving ingredient — sweet potatoes. I’ve never been a fan of the sweet potato marshmallow monstrosity that finds its way to the table; it’s too sweet and it completely masks the beautiful flavor (and natural sweetness) of this glorious root vegetable. In this version, which is a take on a Bon Appétit recipe found long ago, roasted sweet potatoes are paired with roasted red onions and dressed minimally with fresh rosemary and parmesan. It’s so simple but so insanely good; you’ll have a really hard time trying not to sneak bites before it even gets to the serving table.

Two great recipes. Two excellent additions to any Thanksgiving.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Donna’s Cranberry Sauce
Serves: 8

You will need:

3 cups fresh cranberries
1½ cup sugar
¾ cup orange juice
½ cup brandy, port or rum

1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon orange zest

1/3 cup mincemeat (I recently learned that mincemeat does in fact contain meat, so if you want a vegetarian version of this dish, skip this step or sub in a few tablespoons of orange marmalade)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Kitchen equipment: large saucepan

In a large saucepan, bring the orange juice, booze of your choice, sugar, and all of the spices to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 5 minutes to meld the flavors. Add the cranberries and stir to coat them in the liquid. Let the cranberries cook, stirring occasionally, until their skins start to pop and the sauce begins to reduce. This should take about 15 minutes. After most of the berries have popped, add in the mincemeat (or marmalade) and the nuts. Let cool completely, which will thicken the sauce slightly. You can either serve at this point, or you can refrigerate until about an hour before you need it. Let the sauce come to room temperature before serving.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Red Onions with Rosemary & Parmesan
Serves: 6

You will need:

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
3 red onions, peeled and cut into eighths through the root
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

Kitchen equipment: two baking sheets

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, setting one rack in the middle and one on the lowest bar. Lay out your baking sheets, placing the sweet potatoes on one and the onions on the other. Drizzle the vegetables each with a few tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle the garlic over the sweet potatoes. Season both trays liberally with salt and pepper, then get in there with your hands and toss to coat the vegetables thoroughly with the oil and spices. Spread the vegetables out into a single layer on each sheet and pop them in the oven.

Check and stir the veggies about every ten minutes; they should be completely done in about 30-35 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when the sweet potatoes are soft and nicely browned and the onions are a deep purple.

Remove from the oven and add both veggies to a large serving bowl. Add most of the parmesan and rosemary (reserving a little of each for garnish) and toss to coat. Garnish with the rest of the cheese and herbs and serve immediately.

If you need to make this ahead of time, roast the vegetables and refrigerate separately. Then reheat just before serving, combine and toss with cheese and herbs.

Enjoy!