Ode to the Humble Sprout {Brussels Sprout Pizza}

If you had asked me two years ago how I felt about Brussels Sprouts, I probably would have made some horrid face and said something along the lines of: “they’re too bitter,” or “ugh – gross, tiny cabbages are funny looking and should be outlawed” or maybe even “DIS-gusting. Blech.”  Which is mature.

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Had you told me two years ago that Brussels Sprouts would be my favorite dish at an upscale Steak House, or that I’d be preparing them weekly for my family, I most likely would have laughed at you.  Maniacally.

But, ‘lo and behold, you would have been right.  Have I mentioned that I hate it when you’re right?  Except in this case, where I’m delighted, because now I have a whole new vegetable added to my repertoire.  And what a versatile vegetable it is.

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You can roast it at high heat, drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. I could eat these little babies like candy.  Sometimes I’m not sure if they’ll even make it to the dinner table, since I just stand over the skillet and eat them one by one by one.  So good.

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If they survive that, then I sometime serve them over pasta carbonara (in place of the kale).  They’re also good as a base in this garlic ginger chicken recipe.

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Or maybe raw, in a shave salad with pomegranate arils and  pecorino romano cheese.  I made this at Thanksgiving, and it was a big hit.  It was a variation on this recipe from Food 52.

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Last night, though, I decided to try them on pizza, and I may have just died and gone to heaven.  Seriously, y’all – THIS is my new favorite way to consume Brussels sprouts.  And I do realized that I’m sometimes prone to hyperbole – but not in this case.  This right here is good stuff.

The sprouts get good and caramelized, which gives them a sweet, nutty flavor.  They sit on a base of heavy cream and mozzarella cheese, and are complimented by salty bacon and mild red onion.  The whole thing is topped off by sharp, tangy Pecorino Romano cheese, which just rounds out the whole experience.  I ate three pieces, and could have probably finished off the entire pizza, but I guess that might have been excessive (plus, my husband probably wouldn’t have appreciated it very much).

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Pizza with Brussesl Sprouts, Bacon and Pecorino Romano

prep time: 10 minutes

bake time: 15 minutes

yields: 8 slices

Ingredients

  • Pizza dough for one pizza (use your favorite homemade or store-bought fresh dough)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/3 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 ounce pecorino romano cheese, finely shredded
  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 425F
  2. Roll out your pizza dough to a 12-inch diameter circle.  I’ve recently purchased a Zojirushi breadmaker, and have been using their pizza dough recipe (subbing freshly ground wheat flour for the bread flour the owner’s manual calls for). I can’t say enough good things about this machine, but will save the details for a dedicated post.
  3. Drizzle the raw dough with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and par-bake on a baking sheet in your preheated oven for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place on a pizza peel.
  4. Sprinkle the hot par-baked crust with the mozzarella cheese and evenly drizzle with the heavy cream
  5. Spread the sliced Brussels sprouts, bacon and onion evenly over the crust
  6. Sprinkle the romano cheese over the top of the pizza
  7. Using the pizza peel, transfer the pizza back to the preheated oven, placing it directly on the oven rack
  8. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the sprouts have begun to caramelize (they will get brown and crispy on the eges).
  9. Enjoy!

 

The Bitten Word Cover to Cover Challenge {Beet Salad}

If you worry that Autumn signals the end of bright, colorful salads, then you clearly haven’t tried this one.

The boys over at The Bitten Word brought this salad to my attention.  A couple of weeks ago, they decided to include their readers in an October food magazine cover to cover challenge.  They had a huge response, and found themselves with the daunting task of assigning 350 recipes from 6 of their favorite food magazines.  I was assigned to Team Food Network Magazine, specifically this No-Cook Beet-Orange Salad from the latest edition.

Raw beets remind me a lot of raw corn – they’re very sweet, earthy, and a little starchy.  The creamy, tangy goat cheese is a nice accompaniment, along with the sharp bite of the vinegar and the crunchy nuttiness of the pepitas.  If you think you don’t like beets, try them raw – you might change your mind.

Luckily, I’m a fan of beets, so this salad was right up my alley.  The original calls for chioga or golden beets, but I was only able to find golden and red when I went to the store the other day.  The only downside to this is that red beets stain EVERYTHING, so it’s best to add them at the very end to avoid turning your whole salad pink.  I also used toasted pumpkin seeds in place of the Marcona almonds because we’re a mostly tree-nut-free household.

Having a mandolin is certainly beneficial here, but it’s by no means a requirement.  You want to slice your beets paper thin, so if you use a knife make sure it’s super sharp.

You’ll need three oranges for this recipe – one to juice, and two to segment.  If you need to learn how to supreme an orange, this is a good tutorial from Coconut & Lime.

No-Cook Beet-Orange Salad

adapted from Food Network Magazine, October 2012

prep time: 20 minutes

yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 beets, sliced very thinly on a mandolin
  • 2 oranges, supremed
  • 2 cups fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper
  2. Combine the beets, oranges and herbs in a shallow serving bowl
  3. Dress with the dressing
  4. Garnish with goat cheese and pumpkin seeds
  5. Enjoy!

Where Have You Been All My Life? {Cast Iron Roast Chicken}

Kids, I’ve had a revelation.  An absolute epiphany.

I’ve seen the light.

Today, I discovered the secret to fast, perfectly roasted chicken.

Two and a half  years into this blogging experience, and I’ve finally found a roast chicken recipe I feel confident sharing.  That just seems wrong somehow.

Do you ever feel like you’re doing things all wrong?  Swimming upstream?  Trying to come in through the out door?

That’s the way it’s been with me and roast chicken.  Try as I might over the years, I’ve never been comfortable with cooking a whole chicken in the oven.  I’ve tried a multitude of techniques – high-heat roasting, low-heat roasting, splitting and splaying, with vegetables, without vegetables, with butter and herbs under the skin, stuffed with citrus and herbs.  Sometimes with success, but most often I’d end up either overcooking or undercooking the poor bird (neither of which is desirable).   I really thought I’d tried just about everything.

Well, almost everything.  Yesterday afternoon I decided to do something I should have done a long time ago.  I asked myself “what would Bittman do?”

I had a 3-4 lb. chicken in the fridge that I needed to get prepped and cooked in under an hour, so  I turned to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.  And lo and behold – there it was. A method I hadn’t tried before, and an intriguing one at that.

Maybe you’ve seen this before.  After discovering how easy it was, I did a little online search to see if maybe I’d just been living under a rock.  As it turns out, this method (or a similar one) has been featured here, here and here.  So yes, under a rock I have been.  But no more.

Now I’m enlightened.

And so, my friends, are you.  Grab your cast iron skillets and go forth and roast some chicken.  And rejoice.

Cast Iron Roast Chicken

Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

prep time 10 minutes

cook time: 45 minutes

serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 3-4 lb. chicken
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality paprika*
  • salt and pepper
  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 425F**.
  2. Place your cast iron skillet on a low rack  in the oven while it preheats.
  3. Remove your chicken from the packaging and pat it dry with a paper towel (if there’s a packet of parts in the cavity, be sure to remove that, too).
  4. Combine the olive oil and paprika in a small bowl, and rub it all over the chicken – get some inside the cavity as well.
  5. Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
  6. Once the oven is good and hot (and the skillet, too), transfer the seasoned chicken to the hot skillet.
  7. Let roast at 425F for 45 minutes, or until the meat registers 150-155F on a meat thermometer (it will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven).
  8. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes before carving and serving.
  9. Enjoy!

*You can use pretty much any seasonings you want here.  The paprika is nice, but you could also use garlic and herbs, or lemon and herbs, or go a more Latin route and use cumin and chili powder, or even Asian with soy sauce and ginger.  Get creative.  What’s important here is the technique.  

**Bittman recommends a temperature of 450F, and some of the other recipes I’ve seen call for 475F.  I did mine at 425F, and it was perfectly done after 45 minutes.  Sometimes I think my oven runs hot, though, so there’s that.  If you do it at one of the higher temperatures, check it after 35 minutes, just to be sure it’s not getting to dried out.

Worth Sharing {Roasted Potatoes}

Listen, y’all.  I know it’s been over a month since I last posted.

It’s not like I haven’t been trying.  I have at least three posts in various stages of completion that I just haven’t been able to bring myself to publish.  I’m sorry.  I guess I just haven’t felt like sharing much lately.

Until tonight.  Tonight there were these potatoes.  And I just knew that you’d want to know about them. Because after weeks of kitchen mediocrity and work-related anxiety, these potatoes arrived on the scene and changed the course of events for the better.

It’s amazing how food can do that.

It’s pretty simple, really.  Golden potatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and bacon grease.

Yep – see that mini-mason jar in the top left-hand corner of the photo?  That’s rendered bacon grease, leftover from the BLT’s we had for lunch yesterday.  You know, the French are known for their potatoes cooked in duck fat (a distinction that is well deserved), so I figured here in the American South, we could use our humble equivalent – pig fat.

If, however, you are averse to pork products, you could most certainly use all olive oil.  It’s totally up to you.

If you’re like me, though, and you relish the thought of bacon scented potatoes, then by all means read on.

Roasted Potatoes

prep time: 5 minutes

cook time: 45-60 minutes

yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 medium-sized golden potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease
  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper to taste

I start by preheating my oven to 450F, then scrubbing the potatoes and cutting them into 2-inch pieces.  I then combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon bacon grease and 1 teaspoon grated garlic in another bowl, whisking to combine.  This mixture then gets poured all over those potatoes.  Add a teaspoon of salt and lots of freshly grated black pepper.

Pour the potatoes out onto a baking sheet, making sure you scrape every last bit of that delicious oil and bacon grease mixture out of the mixing bowl.  Spread them into a single layer, and place them in your preheated oven.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, checking periodically to make sure they’re not sticking.  If they are, use some tongs to scrape the pan and loosen the potatoes – if they tear a bit, that’s okay – those torn bits get good and crispy and delicious.

See, crispy and delicious.  They’re addictive.  I had to slap my husband’s hand out of the way as he stood at the kitchen counter eating them off the baking sheet (I might have had to practice a little self-restraint, too).  I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough for dinner.

I served them alongside this salad – a combination of spinach, romaine, golden tomatoes, blue cheese and avocado – and some chicken sausage.  Even though it was a simple meal, it was one of the most flavorful we’ve had in a long time.  And I wanted to share it with you.

Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Seed Oil and Quinoa Cakes

I love seed oils.  They’re all so unique – some have a deep,rich, nutty flavor, and others are clean and mild.  I’ve long been a regular user of grapeseed oil, a flavor neutral oil with a high smoke point perfect for high-heat cooking, but also good in light salad dressings.  I also enjoy toasted sesame seed oil, where a little goes a long way in the flavor department.

When I heard that Marx Foods was running a seed oil review contest, I knew I wanted to get in on it.  They have recently begun carrying Butternut Squash Seed Oil and Delicata Squash Seed Oil, and were offering a complimentary bottle of one of the flavors in return for candid reviews.  I submitted my request, and was delightfully surprised when I was chosen to participate.  Within a week, a petite bottle of Butternut Squash Seed  Oil was delivered to my doorstep.

I first wanted to taste it on it’s own, so I uncorked the bottle and sniffed it.  It had a full, round scent – reminiscent of roasted nuts – with a slight vegetal undertone.  I poured a little out onto a plate, dipped the end of my finger in the oil and placed it on my tongue – the flavor was rich and nutty, with a hint of sweetness.  You could definitely taste the butternut squash flavor in the background, but mostly it reminded me of a toasted nut oil (like walnut or hazelnut), or even a mild sesame oil.

According to the Marx Foods website, these oils have a relatively high smoke point, so they’re appropriate for cooking, but are also good as dipping oils or in salad dressings.  I decided to put it to the test on both fronts, using it to fry up some savory quinoa cakes, and in a light salad dressing for a spinach and mixed green salad for dinner one night.

Quinoa Cakes, Fried in Butternut Squash Seed Oil and Clarified Butter

(based on this recipe from The Healthy Foodie, which I found via Pinterest)
prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 15 minutes
yields: 8-10 patties

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups quinoa, cooked in chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 small white onion, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 whole eggs and 4 egg whites, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 2 tablespoons butternut squash seed oil
  1. Combine the quinoa, onion, bread crumbs, cheese, salt and pepper.
  2. Add the eggs and stir to combine.
  3. Allow to sit for a few minutes so the bread crumbs can soak up the liquid.
  4. In a large stainless steel skillet, heat the ghee and butternut squash seed oil over medium heat.
  5. Carefully form the quinoa mixture into patties the size of the palm of your hand.
  6. Place them in the hot oil, cooking them for 4-5 minutes on the first side.
  7. Flip them over once they’ve browned and cook for another 4-5 minutes on the second side.
  8. Keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest.
  9. Serve over a mixed green salad, topped with a poached egg.

Butternut Squash Seed Oil Salad Dressing
prep time: 2 minutes
yields: 1/4 cup of dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon mustard (spicy or dijon)
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butternut squash seed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small mason jar.
  2. Screw the lid on tightly and shake
  3. Toss with mixed salad greens
  4. Enjoy!

As a cooking oil,  it stood up well to the high-heat test, yielding a super light and crispy exterior on the quinoa cakes.  They had a nutty flavor, but it’s hard to say whether that came from the oil, or from the quinoa itself.  It’s also possible that the clarified butter washed out some of the butternut squash flavor.  Performance-wise, though, it held up – hardly smoking at all, even when I let the pan get a little too hot.

Where this oil really shone was in the salad dressing – you could taste the toasted, nutty flavor and the squash flavor was really nice.  The addition of the honey brought out the sweetness, and the mild champagne vinegar didn’t overpower it at all.  I definitely think this oil is better suited to raw applications than it is to cooked.  Although I could see it in place of a sage brown-butter sauce (or even as an addition to) with ravioli or pappardelle.  It’s nice and mellow, and the flavor can become overpowered easily.  If it’s allowed to stand on it’s own, though, it won’t disappoint.

Note:  While I did receive a complimentary bottle of Butternut Squash Seed Oil from Marx Foods, the opinions in this post are my own.