Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey Salad with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries

Even if you brine your turkey, it will become dry after it has cooled. The best way to revive it is to add some mayonnaise, and this simple salad is a great way to use up those leftovers.

I've heard of people adding fresh red grapes or almonds, but I prefer the dried cranberries in sticking with the traditions of the feast. Almonds go nicely as well if you have those on hand rather than walnuts. Even pine nuts would work, but I prefer the walnuts.

Serve this on greens or scoop up with crackers. It will even make a great sandwich on some toasted bread with a little mustard. Either way, this dish is a lovely way to use leftover turkey!

Turkey Salad with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries

2 cups chopped, cooked turkey
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
4 tablespoons mayonnaise

Combine all and taste for seasoning.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Pickled Chanterelles at Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook
Porcini and Eggplant Parmesan at Fat of the Land
Pumpkin Soup with Smoked Paprika at Simply Recipes

Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

...And so it begins, the quest to use the Thanksgiving leftovers in creative ways! Yes, everyone makes turkey soup - it seems a shame to waste that carcass - but adding wild rice  really brings something more to the soup.

Wild rice adds an earthy, almost grassy flavor to this soup, which it should since wild rice is actually a grass seed rather than a grain. Here's my last post on wild rice and the particular reverence it receives in Minnesota. But you don't need to have an Ojibwe connection to find some good rice. Check out your local natural food grocery store for some. If you can buy it in bulk, it's more affordable.

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

2 cups chopped, cooked turkey meat
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
5 cups turkey stock
2/3 cup wild rice
1 teaspoon thyme

In a large sauce pan heat olive oil and add onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add carrot and celery and cook 3-4 minutes until softened. Add stock and rice and bring to boil. Cook for 30 minutes until rice is cooked (it will curl up and split open). Add turkey and thyme and cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragu at The Perfect Pantry
Roasted Pumpkin Feta Cake at Honey From Rock 
Fabada Asturiana (Asturian Bean Stew) at An Edible Mosiac

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Spinach, Olive and Feta Stuffed Chicken with Panko Crust

Some people can't get enough chicken - they would eat it at every meal given the opportunity. Myself, I much prefer eggs (or dishes made with eggs) rather than the bird itself. But every once and a while, I make a pretty fabulous chicken dish. This is recipe is a case in point.

This recipe is not only super delicious, but quick and "gourmet" looking, and yet it was practically a pantry meal. I pulled some cooked spinach out of the freezer and defrosted it, added some feta that needed to be used up and topped it off with my favorite flavor enhancer, olives. Rolling it in the panko helps keep some of the moisture in the breasts, since I had removed the skin. Voila! Fancy looking meal in less than 45 minutes!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad

I had never eaten (let alone heard of) persimmons until I arrived in the land of California. They're an interesting looking orange orb, with a green "cap" on top. My last roommate froze them and then scooped out the flesh like ice cream. I decided to find another way to eat them as that sounded too cold and too sweet.

After peeling them and taking a nibble I knew they'd go well with a squeeze of lime, more so than lemon. When I realized I had some prepared pomegranate seeds (made the Magreb style with sugar and orange blossom water) I knew they would be a match made in heaven. How right I was!

Persimmons have the texture of not quite ripe cantaloupe melon and a somewhat similar flavor, but not nearly as sweet. I'm eager to try them out in other ways, so let me know if you have suggestion!

Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad

3 persimmons, peeled, cored and cut in slices
1/2 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons prepared pomegranate seeds (recipe here)

Mix all and serve chilled.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Sausage Bread at The Perfect Pantry
Roasted Grapes with Shallots and Thyme at An Edible Mosiac
Pear and Cranberry Rustic Tart at Simply Recipes

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Ideas - A Round-Up

Thanksgiving is only a week away and if you're still putting your menu together, here are some suggestions that you might consider.

I like to include old favorites along with a few new fun dishes. Whenever I'm planning a dinner party or a feast of some sort, I always consider color, texture, warm and cold as elements of the dining experience and it never fails me. I believe we "eat" with all five senses, so engaging the visual and tactile senses is almost as important as what we taste, smell and hear - the crunch of nuts or the crackle of crusty stuffing!

 Cheese and crackers might feel a bit too heavy as an appetizer as a prelude to that huge bird in the oven. This Spinach and Artichoke Dip is a little lighter and the green of the spinach and the tang of the marinated artichokes eases the cheesiness of the dip. Plus, it can bake up in its serving dish in a toaster oven, not taking up precious space in the oven. Don't make too much because everyone will be gobbling it all up and then groan that they have no room for turkey!

While Liver Pate is not for everyone, it does signal a "special" dinner. Making this ahead of time makes it a great appetizer that can simply be pulled from the refrigerator a little before guests arrive to be served at room temperature. Don't forget some sliced red onion as a topping!

These Balsamic Green Beans with Goat Cheese and Almonds cook in a flash on the stove top. You could probably cook them after removing the turkey from the oven as it rests before carving. If you make the vinaigrette ahead of time, this dish comes together in a snap.

 Cauliflower Gratin is one of those dishes that truly feels like a gift from the gods. It's buttery nutty flavor melds with cheese and breadcrumbs to become an intoxicating concoction. The dish can be prepared ahead of time and then popped in the oven at the same temperature as the bird and allowed to bake. Make more than you think you need because people will definitely be sneaking seconds and thirds!

 Ahh, Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, nature's gift to us in such a tiny package. The beauty of this dish is you can make it on the stove top in about 7 minutes. Make sure to shred them as finely as possible. A trick to cutting them is to slice them in half and then cut them flat side down. Adding garlic or shallots is also a fun addition.

 For the more adventurous cooks (and with guests willing to set aside traditional flavors) Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate Molasses and spices will wake your taste buds up! Sometimes I want to temper sweetness with a little tart and that's exactly what this dish brings. No marshmallows here but amazing flavors of tart and sweet and spice like you've never had!


Romanescu is a beautiful, almost spiritual vegetable for me. Its tiny spirals spin into infinity and its nearly iridescent color seems almost  supernatural. Aside from its gorgeous looks, it tastes more mellow and nuttier than its cousin, cauliflower, when roasted. If you can find it - most likely at a farmers' market - snatch up all you can carry; it's another vegetable that will intrigue whomever you serve it to.

 I waxed poetic about this gluten-free Smoked Oyster and Cornbread Stuffing and have little more to add. Suffice to say that using smoked oysters makes all the difference, and requires very few of them to make such a big impact. I find that smoked anything - bacon, cheese, meat - is one of the best flavors in the world, so its hard to beat when you combine it with butter, cornbread and alliums!

Coleslaw; it can be the dreck of a deli counter or the zip that makes the rest of the meal sing. This version is a Creamy Root Vegetable version As a lover of cabbage of historic proportions (I used to eat raw chunks of it in my high school brown bag lunches...honestly), I love cabbage salads. Whether your dressing is creamy with mayonnaise or light with lemon and olive oil, its crunchy freshness is always a good accompaniment to hearty fare, at least at my table. Add fresh herbs or red onions to liven it up. Make it your own!

 This "Naked" Carrot and Apple Slaw is my favorite new original recipe - I'm pretty darn proud of it. And like so many great inventions (no modesty here!) it happened by accident. No matter its origins, it's a great use of seasonal veggies and fruits. It could only be improved with a sprinkle of chopped nuts, like walnuts, almonds or even pecans.

Thanksgiving dinners need to be drawn out affairs so that people have time to create room for the piece de la resistance - Desserts! While pumpkin pie is probably one of my all time favorites, I love the simplicity of a fruit tart like this Goat Cheese, Walnut and Pear Galette. Rustic in appearance but gourmet in taste with some goat cheese and walnuts tucked inside, it's perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

If you can buy fresh apples at a roadside stand or better yet visit an orchard, than this Apple Pie is a must for your feast. Simple spices, a sprinkle of sugar and some lemon transform the quintessential American fruit into a slice of heaven. Add homemade whipped cream and you have topped your feast with the perfect finale!

I hope your feast is one filled with love, laughter, joy, and deliciousness!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Raw Cranberry and Apple Relish

One of the joys of living in Minnesota was going to the Farmers' Market in the dead of winter and finding fresh produce. I know that probably seems unbelievable, but it's true. Of course the produce was cabbage, and frozen greens (kale actually tastes sweeter after freezing in the ground!) But the really exciting item was fresh cranberries! I thought they were only farmed in the Northeast (Maine in particular) but apparently Minnesota and Wisconsin have their fair share of bogs as well.

It was at the co-op in Minnesota that I was first introduced to this relish - cranberries, apples, walnuts, and orange - an amazing combination and quite unique. We sampled it at the store and people just gobbled it up! Including the whole orange, rind and all, creates a very unique flavor that blends perfectly with the tart cranberries and apple (I used a granny smith).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Balsamic Green Beans with Almonds and Goat Cheese

My family has very few traditions, let alone traditional dishes for holidays, with one specific exception: this dish. When our far flung family happened to make it to the same table for Thanksgiving, we always had green beans with almonds, goat cheese and balsamic dressing. I find this dish to be the perfect balance of savory, sweet and crunchy.

My mom usually made a balsamic vinaigrette - oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper - but for this version I wanted to mix it up a bit. I'm still swooning over some aged balsamic vinegar I got this summer - the sweet version, aged 18 years - so I drizzled that instead. Of course a vinaigrette would be lovely as well, more acidic and less sweet.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jumping for Joy - Vote for Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

Jumping for joy! That's what I did after my latest visit to Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice, Reeni's Food Blog. Not only does she have an incredible blog (and I mean superlative) but she's one of the final 48 (out of more than an initial 1000) food bloggers who has made it to round 7 of Food Buzz's Next Food Blog Star contest.

Challenge #7 is to make a video and Reeni, as usual, was even more creative than anything I have ever seen. Her entry is How to Bake, Destroy and Salvage a Cake. It's brilliant, both the food and the video. Check it out and vote for her!


Classic Apple Pie with Homemade Whipped Cream

Have you ever had the experience of sauntering out your back door to pick apples for making a homemade apple pie? It is a divine, sublime, and most intoxicating experience.

The first time I was a party to that little miracle was at a friend's house when I was a graduate student at Virginia Tech. The apples were small, and not so pretty to look at, but tart and firm, perfect for a pie. Of course we had no idea what kind they were and when I asked my friend, she grinned and looked at me and said, "they're pie apples, because that's what we're going to make with them!"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cornbread and Smoked Oyster Stuffing (Gluten Free)

When I first learned in depth about celiac's disease - the inability to digest gluten - I remember thanking the gods that I only had a slight wheat intolerance. I adore bread, of any shape, size, or function. Of course stuffing or dressing is useless without bread. Or is it?

Turns out cornbread stuffing is amazing! My eyes are opened! I have been wanting to try a cornbread and oyster stuffing for some time but was stymied by unadventurous eaters. When I mentioned that I would use smoked oysters in lieu of fresh, that caught their attention.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate Molasses and Smoked Paprika

Next to acorn squash, butternut is my favorite hard squash; it's so versatile. Like so many hard squash, it soaks up flavors and is so hearty and filling.

I was going through a real block as a cook - I'm sure it happens to most cooks - and in looking for inspiration to get back my umpf, I spent several hours reading 64 sq ft kitchen's blog posts. I learned that The Maghreb - those countries in northern Africa that were colonized by the French, including Morocco, Algeria and Tunisa - while similar, have some differences. Pomegranates, dried fruits like dates, figs and apricots figure in their cuisine and I remembered that I had some pomegranate molasses and decided to try it out on this squash. Excellent inspiration!

If you don't have an ethnic grocer (Middle Eastern, Eastern European, or African) near by, you can make your own pomegranate molasses fairly easily. Simply combine 3 cups fresh pomegranate juice (the freshest you can find), add 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and cook on high heat until reduced by half. Allow to cool, and voila, zee pomegranate molasses!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Field Roast Marsala - Vegan Thanksgiving Entree

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of gratitude and celebration, but for so many folks who eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, it can be quite trying. I know that for the 15 years that I was vegetarian, my mother was fairly frustrated, to put it mildly, that I did not partake of the meat portion of holiday meals. And while I was creative enough to produce my own entree (a variation of this dish), I know not all cooks are as knowledgeable.

Several years ago, while I was living in Northfield Minnesota and writing a monthly food column for the local paper, I suggested a variation on this recipe in hopes of providing an option for Thanksgiving cooks whose invited guests included vegans or vegetarians. (The town had two small liberal arts colleges and veganism was a very popular diet among students). Unfortunately, most of my readers were taken aback that I did not share my personal candied yam or pumpkin pie recipe. It was the first time that my readership was less than esctatic about my articles and I found it vaguely amusing!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Crab Tater Tots with Coriander Mayonnaise

If you have yet to visit Joanne of Eats Well with Others, go now! Yes, leave my blog and go now. She's an amazing cook, hilarious writer and effortless photographer (not to mention a medical student and distance runner!) I don't know how she does it but she must have the energy of 10 Energizer Bunnies! Not only are her recipes diverse in cuisines, but she never lets me down. This recipe is an excellent example.

Tater tots were something that my mom occasionally served us when we were growing up, kind of a guilty pleasure since they were a) frozen, b) obviously fried, and c) not too high on the nutritional scale. But they're soooo good! When I saw that Joanne had made a homemade version, with crab no less, I knew this recipe was high on the to do list!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Caramelized Mushrooms with Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Ahhhhh Fall, when a cook's fancy lightly turns to mushrooms. Yup, I love cooking with mushrooms in the fall. They have such an earthy, soothing quality that I find hard to resist.

While we have zoomed past the fresh porcini season already, look for some recipes with the dried version soon to come. For now, I made do with this yummy dish that I saw over at Closet Cooking. I was going to post it as a recipe inspiring me, but I couldn't wait!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Homemade Yogurt and Granola

In the mid 1990s I had a roommate from Belgrade, Serbia, who introduced me to a whole new world of food. She taught me how to work with Phyllo Dough - both sweet and savory - and she blithely made homemade yogurt, all the time, as if it was a simple as pouring milk. Which, it turns out, it is.

Yogurt is such a staple in the Balkans/Greek/Turkish diet that they eat it daily, if not with several meals a day. Natasha was no exception. And since her mother in Serbia always made it, she did too. Once I learned how to make it, yogurt became a daily staple in my diet as well. In fact, one of my prized desserts for dinner parties (and I don't do desserts!) is a yogurt cheese pie, the simplest and most tasty (and inexpensive!) dessert in my repertoire. Simply strain yogurt (they sell it as "greek" yogurt), add in some sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and pour into a graham cracker crust and chill. Voila! Instant (low calorie and low cost) dessert. I used to make a quick berry glaze - blend frozen berries with a little sugar and lime or lemon juice and spread on top. Done!