Month: September 2015

Squash-Parsnip Soup with Tarragon Sour Cream or Parmesan and Toasted Almonds

Squash-Parsnip Soup with Tarragon Sour Cream or Parmesan and Toasted Almonds

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My friend Mary Pat’s September birthday is always a reason for celebration. I often cook her a birthday dinner and find it a happy excuse to make a fallish meal after a long, long summer.  (Is it fall YET? The garden’s dying, but it’s still in the 80’s. We sat out last night on the deck at 8 o’clock with a drink watching the blood moon.)

below: my front walk milkweed grown for the monarch butterflies

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Here’s the menu that included her favorite dessert (after Cherries Jubilee, Baked Alaska, and Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie):

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I like six people for dinner, eight at the most, so that I can truly pay attention to and hear each person. Otherwise, it’s a party–cacophony– and I approach it very differently.  I also like to cook a lot of recipes that only serve eight. Continue reading “Squash-Parsnip Soup with Tarragon Sour Cream or Parmesan and Toasted Almonds”

Apple-Cranberry Hoisin Chicken Thighs and Rice with Sautéed Spinach, Asparagus, and Tomatoes

Apple-Cranberry Hoisin Chicken Thighs and Rice with Sautéed Spinach, Asparagus, and Tomatoes

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As summer very, very slowly wanes away, there are days when it’s cool enough to turn on the oven. My oven hasn’t been on in months with the exception of absolutely necessary baking (read birthday cakes), which is done before the sun rises lest the house take on one extra degree of warmth.  Last Friday, as Dave flew in from Bogota, Columbia, I wanted to have a dinner ready for which he didn’t have to grill one single item.  Enter SIMPLY MING ONE POT MEALS.  (Aside: I am not in the business of selling any cookbooks except my own, but Truth in Recipes requires I note this simple dish’s provenance.)

Alyce-Aspen kitchens signing books

I’ve owned this book not since in came out in 2010, but maybe since a year or two after that when a good friend mentioned she was cooking something from it.  The book sounded entertaining (it is) and helpful (also true). Who doesn’t want a new spin on one-dish or one-pot meals?  I made a few dishes from it and back it went on the shelf. If I’m not terribly intentional about looking at and using all of my cookbooks, they may sit a while before I drag them out to the kitchen again.  The quality of the book may have nothing to do with it; I cook out of my head a lot. (Why did I leave this sit all this time?)

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 SIMPLY MING: ONE-POT MEALS

Something drew me to the Ming book last week, and with a few very small changes, I rustled up this one-pot meal very quickly; I think you could, too.

This plate full of goodness is based on a simple happy formula many Americans swear by:  chicken and rice in the oven. Ming’s version has a bit of an Asian twist.  What better, less expensive, easier dinner might you have other than sandwiches?  The bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are sautéed, removed from the pan, where garlic, green onions and next rice are tossed in and cooked briefly. My pot includes a crisp, off-sweet chopped apple. Hoisin sauce is the secret weapon ingredient!  Wine and broth are added; the chicken goes back in. The whole shezaam is covered and carefully stowed in the oven for just 20-30 minutes or so.

You can see and read about the recipe here. I’m not fond of printing recipes that are available in books (as Ming says–cookbook authors need to send their kids to college), but this one has been made available in several places on the internet; have at it.

Changes/additions I made were these:

  1. I added crushed red pepper to the seasoning of the chicken as it browned.
  2. With no fresh cranberries available in September here in Colorado, I substituted a peeled and diced Granny Smith apple along with a handful of dried cranberries. I didn’t want to use all dried cranberries as I thought it might sweeten the dish too much. I also knew the fresh cranberries would give off liquid and felt the apple would mimic that.
  3. I seasoned both the onions and garlic as well as the rice itself with a little salt and pepper.

The pot:  I used a 5.5 quart covered, oven-safe sauté pan for this dish. If you don’t have such a large skillet, brown the chicken in batches in a smaller skillet.  Remove the chicken, add the vegetables and rice, and then add them to a greased very large casserole dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake as the recipe directs.

A couple of other things:  A meal good enough for company, this dish contains a lot of rice. You’ll likely have rice leftover that you can take to work for lunch even if four people have already had their way with it. There are 8 thighs, so the dish will serve 4 or 6 depending on hunger.

While dishes like these are touted as a whole meal–and they are– I’m always in need of some greenery on the table and on the plate. While the chicken and rice baked, I sautéed chopped asparagus, spinach, and tomatoes in grape seed oil with minced ginger, garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper.

IMG_0042In the meantime,  Rosie enjoyed the late afternoon…

IMG_0037Sing a new song; try Ming!

Alyce

Table for One with a One-Pan Dinner

Table for One with a One-Pan Dinner

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Some of us cook for one every day and every night; some of us only on the rare occasion.  If you’re a parent who’s had to cook for a big family most of your life, cooking for only you might seem like one of the highlights of the year, a cause for celebration. You can cook what you like, for as long as you like.  You can set the table exactly as you want or choose a tray and do the previously unthinkable:  read or movie your way through dinner. On the other hand, you might be totally mystified and ready to pour a bowl of cereal or order pizza.  Take heart.

While the weather holds, I’m still outdoors when evening comes.  The candle is lit, the music turned on, and I make sure I’m in a place where I can be grateful and enjoy the beauty of plenty to eat. I mostly like to cook for myself and I cook fish a lot. It’s maybe the fastest and easiest thing to cook for one person. Needless to say, I love fish. I encourage singles to decide you’re worth cooking for. (No more, “Oh, it’s just me.”)

I am, however, a tad cautious outside at dinner lately….

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(photo courtesy C.P. Perry–right down the street from my house) Continue reading “Table for One with a One-Pan Dinner”

Pam’s Sage Pasta with Grilled Summer Squash and Portobello Mushrooms

Pam’s Sage Pasta with Grilled Summer Squash and Portobello Mushrooms

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NEW BAKING CLASS:  Make Your Pie and Eat It, Too!  Basics of American pie baking just in time for Thanksgiving.  Given two Saturdays in November:  November 7 and November 14, 1 – 4 pm.  6 openings for each date.  $55. per student includes pie making ingredients/instruction, dessert, coffee, and digestif (after dinner drink), if desired.  See CURRENT CLASSES above right.

My good friend Pam is a marvelous alto.  She’s a fine cook, too. I know this because she and her husband are in our wine group and I get to sample her tasty fare fairly often. Here she is looking gorgeous and cooking at a house we rented near the Paso Robles wine country a couple of years ago.

IMG_5059This summer I discovered another talent of Pam’s; she, along with her husband, is an avid, generous gardener.  Arriving last week at our house for a laid-back deck burger fest complete with homemade ice cream, she walked in brandishing a bouquet of sumptuous late summer herbs and two bright-as-sunshine summer (yellow) squash. Several very busy days went by and while I had pulled some herbs out for a dish or two, I hadn’t touched the summer squash. I’ve been on a serious diet for months and hadn’t had a bite of pasta all summer long. When I DO make pasta, it’s usually a good-quality whole-wheat variety and rarely white pasta.  But yesterday it was time for a treat; I pulled out the Cipriani’s pappardelle and began grilling the squash with some big Portobello mushrooms.  Try this easily-made-vegan dish for your end-of-summer grilled supper:

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PAM’S SAGE PASTA WITH GRILLED SUMMER SQUASH AND PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS

serves 4

No grill? Cook the squash and mushrooms in a skillet or roasted in the oven.

For vegan version, follow green instructions/ingredients. The large mushroom and squash pieces give this dish a really “meaty” feel. For a vegetarian version, simply leave out the bacon.

  • 3 pieces thick bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled (Skip for vegan version)
  • 2 summer (yellow) squash, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • 3 Large Portobello mushrooms
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 each tablespoon butter or olive oil (2 tablespoons olive oil for vegan version)
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 4 tablespoons minced fresh sage (Reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish.)*
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 large tomatoes, small dice (Reserve 1/3 cup for garnish.)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (1 cup rice or nut milk for vegan version)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Sub with a garnish of toasted bread crumbs for vegan version)
  • 1 pound cooked and drained Pappardelle pasta–Cipriani’s is my favorite (Vegan pasta for vegan version.)
  1. Set cooked and crumbled bacon aside, if using.
  2. Heat grill to medium high. Toss squash and mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper. Grill, turning midway, until grill marks are quite dark and the squash is tender. Remove and set aside.  Slice mushrooms  into 1/4-inch pieces. If grilling indoors on the stovetop in a grill pan, you may have to grill in batches. (Cook pasta now if you haven’t done so already.)
  3. In the meantime, heat butter/oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium flame and cook onions until quite soft. Add garlic, a good pinch each of crushed red pepper, salt, black pepper, 2 tablespoons minced sage, spinach, and all but 1/3 cup diced tomatoes. Cook another minute or two, stirring, or until spinach begins to wilt.
  4. Stir in cream or rice/nut milk along with Parmesan cheese, if using.  Lower heat and simmer 2-3 minutes.  Add grilled mushrooms and chopped, cooked bacon, if using.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
  5. Gently add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir. Taste again and adjust seasonings as needed.
  6. To serve, divide pasta between four bowls adding reserved grilled squash along side, on top, or around.  Garnish with the reserved tomatoes and minced sage.    Top with toasted bread crumbs for vegan version.

*Fresh sage is usually available in grocery stores, but if you can’t locate it, stir in 1/4 teaspoon dried, rubbed sage.  Taste and add more if you like.  Skip the sage garnish, perhaps substituting chopped fresh parsley instead.

{printable recipe}

WINE:  White Burgundy  or Chardonnay.

DESSERT:  Sliced fresh peaches with a drizzle of Amaretto or apples with cheese.

Sing a new song,

Alyce